Gestational diabetes - Complications 

Complications of gestational diabetes  

Media last reviewed: 08/04/2013

Next review due: 08/04/2015

Most women with gestational diabetes go on to have normal pregnancies with healthy babies.

The risk of complications is reduced if gestational diabetes is diagnosed and managed properly throughout your pregnancy.

This involves monitoring and controlling the level of glucose in your blood during pregnancy.

Read more about: 

Possible complications

If gestational diabetes is not managed properly, or goes undetected, it could cause a range of serious complications for both you and your baby, including:

  • your baby being large for its gestational age – i.e. weighing more than 4kg (8.8lbs) (macrosomia)  this increases the need for induced labour or a caesarean birth, and may lead to birth problems such as shoulder dystocia (see below)
  • premature birth (your baby being born before week 27 of the pregnancy)  which can lead to complications such as newborn jaundice or respiratory distress syndrome
  • your baby having health problems shortly after birth that require hospital care  such as low blood sugar
  • miscarriage  the loss of a pregnancy during the first 23 weeks
  • stillbirth  the death of your baby around the time of the birth

Shoulder dystocia

Macrosomia can lead to a condition called shoulder dystocia. This is when your baby’s head passes through your vagina, but your baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind your pelvic bone (the ring of bone that supports your upper body – also called the hip bones).

Shoulder dystocia can be dangerous, as your baby may not be able to breathe while they are stuck. It's estimated to affect 1 in 200 births. For more information, see Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: shoulder dystocia: (PDF, 223kb).

After the birth

Gestational diabetes increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes after the pregnancy.

Type 2 diabetes is when your body either does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to the insulin (insulin resistance).

Read more information about type 2 diabetes.

Therefore, it's important that your blood glucose is monitored after the birth to check whether or not it returns to normal.

Your baby may be at greater risk of developing diabetes or obesity (having a body mass index of more than 30) later in life.

Future pregnancies

After having gestational diabetes, you are at increased risk of having gestational diabetes in any future pregnancies.

It's very important to speak to your GP if you are planning another pregnancy. They may arrange for you to monitor your own blood glucose from the early stages.

Page last reviewed: 07/08/2014

Next review due: 07/08/2016


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The 8 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

ConcernedDadToBe said on 19 February 2014

I couldn't agree more with the other comments, My wife and I lost out first baby due to a rare bone disorder, (Achondroplasia - in our case an extreme form of skeletal dysplasia, meaning babys long bones hadn't fully developed {and wern't likely too!} so the baby would struggle to breathe and eventually pass away.)

So we have had multiple extra scans and midwife visits to confirm no similar happenings with our new baby. The last thing we needed to hear was the wife is measuring 5 1/2 Weeks larger than she should be and could potentially have diabetes! when a week previous we were measuring bang on the right size! We are currently 37 weeks and 3 days so we are technically now full term and are hoping to be induced when we visit the consultant (tomorrow) simply because all of the stuff we have read online! no one seems to write these articles from the perspective of the pregnant mother (or the worried father/family/friends) After mentioning this site to a couple of people in the office today, they have both said they have close friends (one was a sister) that have had gestational diabetes, and none of them said anything went wrong - mothers and babies were all fine and there has been no sign of diabetes occurring in later life! So I'm a little more reassured but the wife will just be sitting at home reading sites like this and panicking! Please review this article asap and get it rewritten from the perspective of someone that has either dealt with complicated births or has some compasion - don't forget for most people a birth is a very special time - it seems to be some nhs staff see it s a trivial thing because they deal with it everyday. (that being said our midwife and consultant have been amazing and we dont want to lose them simply because we have moved house)

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Grandfather said on 07 August 2013

As my first comments seem to have gone astray or been deemed unsuitable I will try again.
I agree wholeheartedly with the previous submissions. What a very scary way of presenting information. No statistical guide or suggestion of the relevant probabilities of such dire risks shown in the entry. It seems this page was reviewed in July 2012 - did anyone bother to read the comments? Was the review done by anyone with any medical knowledge or view on what the aim of the page was? I am a potential Grandfather and I found the entry to be disturbing - goodness knows the initial impact on a young pregnant girl.

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Grandfather said on 07 August 2013

I agree fully with the previous correspondents . This site is, I am afraid, typical of the perceived need to tell everything with no sense of balance or judgement as to how the information may be received. It is crass in the extreme for failing to give any perspective or statistical evidence in support of bald and what I am sure must be terrifying statements for mothers-to-be at a most vulnerable time. From the previous writers' comments I can only assume that NHS personnel do not review site remarks. It would be interesting to know if the NHS have any focus on what the needs of pregnant ladies might be in circumstances where they have to refer to an online service which gives no perspective on the threats offered by gestational diabetes. I am disturbed by this site and I am only a potential Grandfather.

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nellienoo said on 11 May 2012

When I first read this page, I was newly diagnosed with gestational diabetes and I have to say I shed a few tears. I wanted to write a comment for those who may be similarly terrified. I found out that I had gestational diabetes when I was about 29 weeks and so this is written from that perspective.

I do feel it is important to understand the potential risks involved, so that informed choices can be made. It also makes avoiding chocolate a lot easier! However, I agree that this page could be improved with some statistics, so that perspective can be given. The condition should be taken seriously and care should be taken to follow the experts' advice, but the risks described above are generally small.

I have been lucky as I have managed to keep my sugar levels down with diet alone. This has taken lots of willpower, which is something I am not normally known for! When I first found out I had gestational diabetes, I found it hard to know what to eat. I have since found this, which I hope helps:

In some respects getting gestational diabetes has been very positive. It has meant that I have had to think more about my diet, during the pregnancy and for the future. I have received very good care from the NHS (with lots of extra scans of the baby for free!) Touch wood and fingers crossed please, our baby will arrive next week safe and sound. So I hope that this comment helps put things into perspective at what can be a very scary time. Good luck!

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eilatan said on 24 February 2012

Unfortunately I feel the NHS uses scare tactics to make women comply with the course of treatment the hospital wants to prescribe. I am currently pregnant for the second time and have been told that my baby 'will die' or it will 'kill me and my baby will be left without a mother' if I don't choose to do as they say. Not really the comments of people in a supposed caring proffession! Thus, these sort of comments on an informative website don't surprise me.

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Worried Dad said on 28 September 2011

Having already suffered a postpartum haemorrhage and a traumatic miscarriage, both of which required transfusions, and now being told that she has gestational diabetes, my wife is very worried about the possible outcomes for our baby and herself. I asked my GP for reassurance and he suggested this site. However, I think previous comments are correct and the information is likely to lead to further alarm and anxiety.

Please can the site be updated to reassure prospective parents rather than causing additional stress?

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Mrs Clarkson said on 06 July 2011

I agree with the comment from user561452 dated 04 June 2011 in relation to revising this entry.Whilst researching gestational diabetes for personal reasons I entered this section of the NHS site for further details. I was horrified when the first thing my eyes were drawn to were the list of conditions written in bold text one of which was death. I feel that more emphasis should be put on the words 'may increase the risk' which preceeds the bold text, and the wording should be more sensitive and informative as at present I feel this information causes unnecessary stress to a number of people especially expectant mothers who need to be relaxed and reasurred not frightened and anxious.

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User561452 said on 04 June 2011

This entry could cause more alarm and anxiety than is necessary because the risks are listed without any indication of how great they may be. Seeing that the death of the newborn is one of the risks described it seems to me, as a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist by profession, that this is going to frighten every woman who reads it, and not all are confident or clued-up enough to consult their GP or midwife to evaluate what the actual range of risks is for themselves.
Could the entry be revised with this in mind?

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