How does gestational diabetes affect babies?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes developed by a person who is pregnant. If not treated properly, it can cause serious complications for both mother and baby. Potential effects of gestational diabetes on the baby are macrosomia (abnormal fetal size), birth asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), hypoglycemia (low blood sugars), seizures, and/or jaundice. It’s crucial to monitor both mother and baby to avoid these complications, which can lead to other serious injuries and lifelong conditions.  

With regular monitoring and proper treatment and delivery in time, patients with gestational diabetes can have healthy pregnancies. If left unmonitored and untreated (and sometimes even with proper treatment), however, gestational diabetes can cause serious injury. Two common complications of gestational diabetes are preeclampsia, or maternal high blood pressure, and fetal macrosomia, a condition in which the baby grows abnormally large. Each condition poses its own risks.

Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia


Patients with gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of developing preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced hypertension (high blood pressure). Preeclampsia can cause many serious issues in-utero , including placental abruption, preterm delivery, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), and more. It can also lead to eclampsia, which is when preeclampsia is accompanied by seizures. This condition is life-threatening and requires immediate delivery, no matter how far along the pregnancy is. Preeclampsia can also lead to problems for a baby even after birth, including low blood sugar levels, jaundice, and breathing difficulties.

Gestational diabetes and macrosomiafetal macrosomia

Babies experiencing the effects of uncontrolled gestational diabetes can develop a condition called fetal macrosomia, in which they grow too large. Macrosomia makes vaginal deliveries challenging because of the baby’s size, which increases risk for injuries, such as shoulder dystocia. It could also cause the baby to become stuck in the birth canal, which increases the risk of oxygen deprivation ( hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or HIE). Larger fetal size and a difficult vaginal delivery may also require the use of tools like forceps or a vacuum extractor, which can cause fetal trauma and/or potential brain bleeds. To avoid these complications, medical personnel may perform a c-section delivery. After birth, macrosomia can also lead to low blood sugar levels and a higher risk of breathing problems. 

How is gestational diabetes treated?

Your health care provider is responsible for monitoring your gestational diabetes and instructing you as to how to control it for a healthy pregnancy.  Your health care team can measure your blood sugar during office visits or request that you monitor it at home. During labor and delivery, blood sugar levels are also monitored. Modifications to your diet and exercise may also be recommended, or medication may be prescribed to lower your blood sugars if the former is not effective. 

To avoid any other complications from gestational diabetes, like fetal macrosomia, your doctor will also monitor your baby’s growth through ultrasounds or other tests at prenatal visits. If you do not go into labor by your due date, your doctor may induce labor so the baby does not grow too large.

Gestational diabetes and medical malpractice

The complications from improper treatment of gestational diabetes are serious and can lead to birth injuries, such as those outlined above. Children with birth injuries often go on to require extensive care resources for the remainder of their lives. If you or your child experienced injuries due to gestational diabetes, you may be eligible for compensation from a birth injury lawsuit. We encourage you to reach out to our team of attorneys for a free legal consultation to determine if medical malpractice caused your loved one’s injuries. At ABC Law Centers, we only handle birth trauma cases, and many of our cases have involved injuries from mismanagement of gestational diabetes. Contact us today for your free case review in any of the following ways:

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