Not all people who have gestational diabetes during pregnancy will have an early delivery, but having gestational diabetes may increase the risk for early labor and delivery.

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Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can appear during pregnancy and resolve after. If you have gestational diabetes, you may have a higher risk of developing other forms of diabetes later in life. There are also risks to babies since these babies are often larger.

This article will explore how gestational diabetes can affect you, your baby, and even your delivery date.

Learn more about gestational diabetes.

The average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, but there are many factors that play into your delivery date. Gestational diabetes is one issue that can impact the timing of your delivery regardless of whether you go into labor naturally or you’re induced.

If you have gestational diabetes, you may still have a “natural” delivery. Babies who develop in the setting of gestational diabetes are at risk for a few different problems, but too much amniotic fluid around the baby — polyhydramnios — is a leading cause of premature birth in cases of gestational diabetes.

Preterm delivery is more common in people with gestational diabetes overall, and the risk increases with age.

Preterm delivery and higher infant mortality are significant risks for people who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, so while delivery can happen naturally, it’s usually planned.

Your healthcare professional will monitor you closely during pregnancy and may suggest a surgical delivery (cesarean delivery, commonly referred to as a C-section) if the health risks during pregnancy become too great for you or your baby.

Some of the issues your baby may experience as a result of gestational diabetes outside of the problems associated with premature birth include:

  • larger size at birth (macrosomia)
  • increased risk of developing diabetes later in life
  • difficulty controlling blood glucose levels at birth

For mothers, there are similar risks. Not only does gestational diabetes increase your risk of needing a C-section, but it can also increase your risk of developing other problems, such as other forms of diabetes and high blood pressure.

In particular, your healthcare professional will monitor you for a severe complication of pregnancy called pre-eclampsia which usually appears with high blood pressure.

Language matters

You’ll notice we use the binary term “mother” in this article. While we realize this term may not match your gender experience, this is the term used by the researchers whose data was cited. We try to be as specific as possible when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data for or may not have had participants who are transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

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Although the exact delivery recommendation varies from person to person and is based on how well you’re able to control your blood glucose level during pregnancy, delivery is usually suggested between 34 and 39 weeks.

If necessary, to avoid severe problems for you or your baby, delivery can happen as early as 34 weeks, but this increases the risk of other complications associated with premature birth, such as low birth weight and breathing problems.

Typically, the ideal gestational age for delivery is between 38 and 40 weeks, similar to the delivery window for individuals without gestational diabetes.

The decision of when to deliver will be based on your and your baby’s individual health and how well your blood glucose levels are stabilized.

Preterm birth, or delivery before 37 weeks gestation, can increase the risk of complications for both mother and baby.

For the mother, risks include things like:

  • higher rates of C-section
  • high blood pressure
  • placenta problems
  • emotional distress or anxiety
  • bonding difficulties

Infants who are born early have even higher risks of health problems, and these risks are usually related to how far along they are in their development at the time of delivery. Some problems common to infants born before 37 weeks include:

Babies born early to mothers with gestational diabetes have added risks, too, particularly in controlling blood glucose levels and a higher future risk of developing diabetes.

The risk of early delivery is higher in people with gestational diabetes if blood glucose levels aren’t closely managed. Higher maternal age and reliance on insulin late in pregnancy are linked to higher rates of preterm births

If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, or you have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, your healthcare professional will work with you on diet and lifestyle changes to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Premature birth itself is a short-term complication of gestational diabetes, but there are also long-term effects of early delivery related to gestational diabetes.

Infants who are born early due to gestational diabetes have increased lifelong risks of things like:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • circulation problems
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • high cholesterol

How early can you be induced with gestational diabetes?

Your healthcare professional will monitor you closely toward the end of your pregnancy, carefully weighing the risks and benefits of early delivery.

If your baby is growing too large, a C-section may be considered at any gestational age, but early delivery is usually the result of other pregnancy complications caused by gestational diabetes, such as polyhydramnios.

Are gestational diabetes babies always born early?

Not every pregnancy affected by gestational diabetes results in early delivery. The ideal delivery window for babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes is between 38 and 40 weeks — similar to the average pregnancy.

Early delivery can happen spontaneously or as a planned intervention to resolve complications related to gestational diabetes in pregnancy.

How harmful is gestational diabetes to the baby?

Gestational diabetes doesn’t always cause direct or immediate noticeable problems for your baby, but it can increase the risk of various health problems later in life, including things like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Does gestational diabetes get worse after 36 weeks?

Gestational diabetes doesn’t get worse later in pregnancy, exactly. However, if you’re older, your blood glucose levels are not well controlled, or you require medication with insulin, you may have more severe gestational diabetes and you may be more likely to have an early delivery.

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy and cause complications for the pregnant person and the baby. Babies born to parents with gestational diabetes often grow larger than other babies or accumulate more fluid around the amniotic sac.

These issues can require early delivery, but not always. Your healthcare professional will watch you closely toward the end of a pregnancy with gestational diabetes and may suggest early delivery if there are signs of distress for you or your baby.