Many people with gestational diabetes deliver their babies at full term of 39–40 weeks. But delivery may happen earlier if there are risks for the parent or baby.
If you’ve received a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, you’re not alone. As many as 1 in 10 pregnant people develop gestational diabetes. You might feel worried about what this means for your pregnancy and your delivery plan.
Just like with other types of diabetes, you can manage gestational diabetes. This means you can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. The goal is to keep blood sugar as close to a typical range as possible with diet and exercise changes, as well as possibly insulin or other medications.
The best timing for delivery depends on many factors.
When blood sugar is well-managed and there are no expected risks for the birthing parent or baby, labor can start naturally toward the end of pregnancy. But if risks for the baby or birthing parent are present, doctors may induce labor early or plan for cesarean delivery, commonly referred to as a C-section.
You will have extra appointments with your doctor to monitor your health and your baby’s health. The results of this testing will help your doctor determine the best plan and timing for your baby’s birth.
Even expert groups
Generally, it’s best to keep the baby inside for as long as possible. The final weeks are important for brain and lung development as well as weight gain.
If your diabetes is well-managed, your baby is growing well, and you are in good health, many doctors agree it’s best to let your body go into labor naturally.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that a person with well-managed gestational diabetes can deliver at full term, which is defined as pregnancy from 39 weeks to 40 weeks and 6 days.
Beyond this week of pregnancy, your doctor may recommend inducing labor.
As the weeks go on, the baby can become bigger, potentially making labor
Gestational diabetes affects your pregnancy in a few different ways. You can still have a healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby. You and your doctor just have some extra things to monitor.
You will need to do regular blood sugar checks at home. A healthcare professional will help you learn to use a blood sugar monitor and understand what the results mean.
You may need to make changes to your food choices and timing as well as your exercise routine. You may also need to use insulin to help manage your blood sugar levels.
You will also have more frequent medical appointments, blood work, and other tests to monitor your health and your baby’s growth. Gestational diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure. A healthcare professional will regularly monitor your blood pressure throughout your pregnancy.
Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and many find that living with gestational diabetes increases their stress and anxiety. Some research from 2019 suggests that gestational diabetes can be a risk factor for developing postpartum depression. Let your healthcare professional know if you are experiencing changes in your mood or anxiety.
The timing of delivery in gestational diabetes will depend on the health of the pregnant person and the baby. If the birthing parent and baby are healthy, it’s usually best to go full-term and let labor start on its own.
If the baby is growing too big or there are other possible risks, your healthcare team may recommend planning an early delivery. Early delivery might be through induction for a vaginal birth or a scheduled cesarean delivery.
There is not necessarily one week that is most difficult for everyone. For some, those weeks right after diagnosis might feel the hardest. Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed between
As the pregnancy goes on, there is a bigger physical toll on your body, which can make those final weeks tough. If you take insulin, your needs will increase quickly in the final trimester, and it can be challenging to constantly adjust your doses.
Yes. Gestational diabetes, like other forms of diabetes, causes blood sugar levels to be high. There is more sugar available to feed your baby and it can cause your baby to gain weight faster.
If you have gestational diabetes, you will likely have extra appointments to monitor the health and growth of your baby. In some cases, your healthcare professional may recommend a cesarean delivery. A large baby may have difficulty passing through the birth canal and there can be risks for both the birth parent and the baby.
Every birth is different. Many people with gestational diabetes have standard vaginal births. During labor, healthcare professionals will monitor and manage your blood sugar levels.
Since labor is such an intense event, many people do not need insulin to manage blood sugar during that time. In fact, you might be given an intravenous (IV) glucose solution to ensure your blood sugar does not drop too much.
After your baby is born, a healthcare professional will check your baby’s blood sugar level. Babies born to birthing parents with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of low blood sugar after birth.
In a 2022 study, 29% of the babies included had low blood sugar after birth. Low blood sugar in a newborn is
It’s also important to note that if you take insulin, your insulin needs will drop immediately after giving birth. Many people no longer need any insulin once the baby and placenta are delivered.
Many people with gestational diabetes have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. There is a great benefit for your baby to stay in your uterus and continue to grow and develop until they are ready.
Generally, if you have managed your gestational diabetes and have no complications, your pregnancy can go to full term without any intervention. If continuing the pregnancy would put you or your baby at risk, though, your doctor might recommend delivering early.