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Complications of gestational diabetes

If left untreated, high blood sugar levels can cause serious health problems for you and your baby. These are called the complications of gestational diabetes. But there is lots you can do to reduce your risk.

What are the possible complications of gestational diabetes?

Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes can be a scary and confusing time. But with good management of your blood sugar levels, you’re more likely to enjoy a healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby.

After you’re diagnosed, your care team should tell your GP and you should be referred to a joint diabetes and antenatal clinic within one week. Your care team will work with you on targets for your blood sugar levels. To help you keep on top of your levels, download our handy resource – My Blood Sugar Targets (PDF, 104KB).

Monitoring your blood sugar levels and meeting your targets will reduce your risk of complications and increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby. However, if your gestational diabetes isn’t managed well, it can put you at an increased risk of developing complications.

Continuous high blood sugar levels can lead to:

  • induced labour
  • caesarean section
  • a larger than normal baby, which could make for a more painful birth and possible stress for the baby
  • your newborn having low blood sugar levels
  • your baby having a higher risk of being overweight or obese and developing type 2 diabetes in later life. As your child grows, managing their weight, eating healthily and being physically active will reduce this risk.

There is also a small risk of your baby dying at around the time of the birth. But remember, keeping your blood sugar levels within your target range will lower the chance of these problems and increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Gestational diabetes can affect how well your placenta works. If your placenta isn’t working as well as it should, it can make your baby unwell. This can affect their movements. If you notice that your baby’s movements have slowed down, stopped or are different to normal, you should contact your midwife or maternity unit immediately.

There are staff on the hospital maternity unit 24 hours a day, seven days a weeks who can check your baby is OK. Don’t put off phoning until the next day, and don’t worry about phoning, as it is important your doctors and midwives know if your baby’s movements have slowed down or stopped. If you get the right treatment and care as soon as you can, this could save your baby’s life.

“During my pregnancy, I had lots of growth scans and other checks which all turned out to be fine and this really helped to reassure me.”
Reena, read her story

How do I prevent complications?

Your care team should give you lots of information and support about how to manage gestational diabetes and stay healthy during pregnancy. 

This should include how to check your blood sugar levels and what your target levels are, advice about making healthier food choices, the importance of daily physical activity and taking your medication, including insulin, if you need it.

“My biggest worry was my unborn little boy, but the consultant was very reassuring, and said there was no reason I couldn’t have a full-term natural birth, as my sugar levels were well managed, and the baby was growing normally.”
Vicky, a journalist from London

If you haven’t been given any of this information, make sure to ask your diabetes team for it.

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