Gestational diabetes isn't an immediate threat to your health. However, poorly controlled diabetes in pregnancy puts you at a higher risk of various problems. These include:
- a condition called pre-eclampsia, which causes high blood pressure
- premature labour
- having too much amniotic fluid (the fluid around your unborn baby)
If you have gestational diabetes, you're more likely to need a caesarean delivery than women who don't have diabetes.
You're also more likely to develop gestational diabetes in future pregnancies, and are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
For your baby
If you have high blood sugar levels, your baby may grow to be larger than usual. This is because he or she has to make extra insulin to control the increased blood sugar, which causes more fat and tissue to be stored. This can make delivery difficult. For example, there is an increased risk of shoulder dystocia. This is when your baby's head has been born but one of his or her shoulders is stuck behind your pelvic bone, preventing his or her body being delivered. This in turn can damage nerves in your baby's neck or result in a fracture of one of his or her arms or shoulders. Very rarely, it can cause brain damage if the blood supply to your baby's brain is blocked off for too long.
Your baby may have low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) after birth. This is because he or she makes extra insulin to respond to your high blood sugar levels. Shortly after birth, your baby may continue to make extra insulin causing his or her blood sugar level to be too low. It's recommended that you breastfeed your baby within 30 minutes of delivery to keep his or her blood sugar levels at a safe level. Otherwise, your baby may be given a sugar solution through a drip (directly into a vein). Midwives or doctors will check your baby's blood sugar level regularly.
Your newborn baby is at risk of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). This usually fades without the need for medical treatment. However, sometimes your baby may need treatment with a special ultraviolet light after being born.
There is a higher likelihood that your baby will be born with a birth defect. Sometimes, babies can be born with respiratory distress syndrome, in which the baby has problems breathing because his or her lungs haven't developed as they should. This usually clears up with time, although it may mean that your baby needs to be ventilated with a machine.
There is also a slightly higher chance of stillbirth or death as a newborn, but this is rare as long as blood sugar levels in both you and your baby are well controlled.
There is an increased risk of your baby becoming obese as a child and an increased risk of him or her developing diabetes during childhood.