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What Are the Effects of Gestational Diabetes on the Baby?

Excessive amounts of blood sugar go directly to the fetus.
Gestational diabetes can cause hypoglycemia.
Though not common, gestational diabetes can cause stillbirth.
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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2014
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Gestational diabetes is a problem during pregnancy that may cause negative effects on both the mother and her baby. The effects of gestational diabetes on the baby include large birth weight, hypoglycemia, and possibly stillbirth. Careful monitoring of the mother's blood sugar can usually lower the chances of gestational diabetes affecting the baby, and most women who have this type of diabetes deliver healthy babies. Women with gestational diabetes are typically considered to have high-risk pregnancies as soon as they are diagnosed, and doctors normally do everything they can to ensure that the remainder of the pregnancy, labor, and delivery go as smoothly as possible.

The most common of the effects of gestational diabetes on the baby is large birth weight. Babies born to women who have this type of diabetes are typically 9 pounds (4 kg) or greater at birth. This is due to the excess amounts of blood sugar in the mother's system, of which the excess goes directly to the fetus, thereby causing it to grow much larger than normal. There is a greater chance of complications during delivery when babies are very large, and in many cases a Cesarean section must be performed. Even though Cesarean sections are considered safe, they are typically considered riskier for both a mother and her baby than a vaginal delivery.

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Another possible complication that may result from gestational diabetes is hypoglycemia in the baby. Hypoglycemia is something that occurs when a person's blood sugar levels drop too low, and when the blood sugar gets dangerously low, it is possible for a person to go into shock. Babies who are born to women with gestational diabetes have typically acclimated themselves to the higher levels of blood sugar in their mothers' systems, and these levels dramatically drop once these babies are born. This can result in a baby developing hypoglycemia. Even though hypoglycemia is typically temporary in newborns and usually goes away as soon as a baby has his or her first taste of formula or breast milk, careful monitoring is still necessary for the first few days.

Effects of gestational diabetes on the baby are very rarely serious enough to cause stillbirth, but it does occasionally happen. High levels of blood sugar in the mother's body can cause damage to her blood vessels, which can lead to reduced oxygen levels. Babies who do not get enough oxygen while in the womb may be stillborn. The chances of this occurring are low as long as the mother is trying to take care of herself and properly manage her diabetes while she is pregnant.

Some people incorrectly believe that a baby born to a mother with gestational diabetes will be born with diabetes, but this does not typically occur. There is a slightly increased chance that a baby born to a mother with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes at some point during the adult years than babies born to mothers without gestational diabetes, but this is not always the case. In spite of the risks, most women with gestational diabetes go on to deliver perfectly healthy babies and are able to greatly reduce their risk of any serious complications by carefully monitoring blood sugar levels and eating appropriately while they are expecting.

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