Gestational Diabetes: Can it Lead to Long-Term Diabetes?

Pregnant woman pricking finger to test blood sugar levelsThe type of diabetes diagnosed for the first time during gestation or pregnancy is called gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes impacts how your cells use sugar or glucose, much like other types of diabetes. High blood sugar levels from gestational diabetes can harm you and your unborn child’s health.

However, the good news is that you can manage gestational diabetes successfully during pregnancy. Maintaining a proper diet, taking medication, and exercising can help expectant mothers to stay healthy. Controlling blood sugar levels also protects against a challenging birth.

In most cases, the blood sugar levels return to normal shortly after delivery. Nonetheless, the chances of developing type 2 diabetes increase with gestational diabetes.

This guide will highlight the symptoms, causes, and risk factors for gestational diabetes. We will also recommend valuable tips to help you manage and prevent gestational diabetes. 

When Should You See a Doctor?

Seek medical attention as soon as you consider conceiving so that your doctor can assess your general health and your risk of gestational diabetes. As part of your prenatal care after becoming pregnant, your doctor will examine you for gestational diabetes.

If you develop gestational diabetes, you could require more frequent checks. These are most likely to happen in the final three months of pregnancy when your doctor will be monitoring your blood sugar level and the well-being of your unborn child.

What are the Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes?

In most cases, gestational diabetes has no apparent symptoms or indications. However, symptoms like frequent urination and increased thirst are possible.


We still don’t fully know why some women develop gestational diabetes while others do not. But typically, pregnancy weight gain is the most significant factor.

Several hormones control blood sugar levels, but because of fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy, the body has a more challenging time processing blood sugar. As a result, there are frequent spikes in blood sugar levels.

Risk Factors

  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Being prediabetic
  • Undergoing gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
  • Having immediate family members with diabetes

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Gestational diabetes is more common among women of specific ethnicity or race. For example, Asian American, American Indian, Hispanic, and Black women are more likely to develop this type of diabetes. In addition, women who have delivered a baby weighing more than 4.1 kilograms or 9 pounds previously are also at risk.

Complications of Gestational Diabetes

Uncontrolled gestational diabetes may result in elevated blood sugar levels, harming both the expectant mother and the unborn child. Naturally, that increases the probability of having a cesarean delivery.

How Gestational Diabetes May Affect your Unborn Child

If you have this type of diabetes, here are the complications that may arise:

Excessive Weight at Birth: Your baby may grow too big if your blood sugar levels are above the recommended range. Babies who weigh 9 pounds or more are more likely to get trapped in the birth canal, undergo delivery injuries, or require a C-section.

Premature Delivery: Delivery before the due date or going into labor early are common among women with gestational diabetes. Sometimes, the doctor recommends an early birth because the baby becomes too large.

Breathing Complications: Premature babies are vulnerable to respiratory distress syndrome. The syndrome occurs because the lungs of these babies are not yet developed. As a result, they need assistance breathing properly and require extra oxygen.  

Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Sugar: Another complication of gestational diabetes for the child is hypoglycemia. That means a baby has low blood sugar levels, and these fluctuations may even lead to seizures. An intravenous glucose solution and prompt feedings can help the baby’s blood sugar levels resume back to normal.

Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity Later in Life: Unfortunately, babies born to mommies with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity later.

Stillbirth: Failure to treat gestational diabetes can sometimes lead to a baby’s death, either after or before birth.

How Gestational Diabetes May Affect Expectant Mothers

Gestational diabetes can have a devastating impact on pregnant women. Preeclampsia and high blood pressure are common examples. 

Preeclampsia is a severe pregnancy complication in which blood pressure rises to extreme levels, threatening both the mother’s and the baby’s life.

C-Section Delivery: Gestational diabetes increases the risks of delivering the baby through a c-section.


If you are obese or overweight before becoming pregnant, losing weight and exercising regularly may help you avoid gestational diabetes.

How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Gestational Diabetes

Luckily, there are various things to do to manage gestational diabetes. First, mommies to-be should attend all their prenatal check-ups and stick to their treatment schedules.

During a prenatal check-up, a doctor assesses the development and growth of a child. They will also ensure that you are eating nutritious meals in the proper amounts and at appropriate times.

It is crucial for women with gestational diabetes to observe a diet rich in nutrients to help them feel satiated for extended periods.

The doctor will also ensure that your blood sugar levels remain within a safe range.

Staying active is also a great way to prevent and combat gestational diabetes. Brisk walking makes you more sensitive to insulin and lowers your blood sugar level. Your doctor can also give you valuable tips on exercising safely and staying active throughout your pregnancy.

When being active and consuming a healthy diet aren’t enough to manage your blood sugar, the doctor may recommend medication, metformin, or insulin.

Does Gestational Diabetes Lead to Permanent Diabetes?

After giving birth, gestational diabetes usually disappears. However, nearly 50% of pregnant women with gestational diabetes are at risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes.

The good news is that following the tips mentioned in this guide, like engaging in regular exercise, keeping a healthy weight, and eating a balanced diet, can lower your risk of acquiring future health problems. Discussing everything with your doctor before you begin a new exercise regime or introduce a new supplement into your diet is essential.

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