How Diabetes Complicates Pregnancies for Moms

Prenant woman and her OB at a prenatal appointment

Complications for a pregnant mother with diabetes can endanger her health and her baby's. Some women have diabetes before they get pregnant, and others develop it during their pregnancy. Either way, women with diabetes during pregnancy may encounter health risks to both the mother and baby.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes, a condition where the body can't break down the glucose in your blood, becomes more of a concern during pregnancy when the increase in certain hormones interferes with the pancreas making insulin to absorb the glucose. Women who have diabetes before pregnancy puts them in a high-risk pregnancy category that will require regular monitoring by your doctor who will adjust your diet, exercise, and possibly your insulin if needed. If you enter pregnancy without diabetes but start exhibiting symptoms of gestational diabetes, your doctor will request blood tests to confirm your condition.

Tests for Diabetes

Testing for gestational deiabetes is fairly common during pregnancy. At every doctor's appointment you give a urine sample, which is tested for excessive sugar. Your doctor will do a blood test to check for diabetes if there is excessive sugar in your urine or you are displaying some of the following risk factors or symptoms:

  • Obesity
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Swollen ankles/edema
  • Extreme thirst
  • Excessive hunger
  • Excessive urination
  • Sugar in urine
  • Vaginal or yeast infections
  • 20 to 28 weeks pregnant
  • Over the age of 30
  • Previously given birth to a large baby (large is considered over 9 pounds, 14 ounces)
  • Previously given birth to a stillborn baby or one with birth defects
  • Uterus measuring large
  • Too much amniotic fluid
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Previously having gestational diabetes
  • Strong family history of diabetes
  • Racial or ethnic group that has a prevalence of diabetes

Complications for a Pregnant Mother with Diabetes

Going to your monthly pre-natal doctor's appointments can lessen the complications to the pregnant mother with diabetes. At your appointments, the doctor does a blood pressure test and a urine sample test that can indicate diabetes or any of the complications from it. Do not miss even one appointment.


Macrosomia, a condition where the baby gets too large, makes vaginal delivery very difficult. If the mother has diabetes, the baby may end up with too much glucose in his blood causing too much weight gain. A macrosomic baby is too large and the baby's head, shoulders, or body may get stuck in the birth canal. An emergency cesarean section is done to deliver the baby.


Preeclampsia is one of the complications to the pregnant mother with diabetes that affects five to eight percent of all pregnancies. This disorder occurs only during pregnancy with symptoms that affect the mother during pregnancy and postpartum as well. High blood pressure or hypertension is the main problem with preeclampsia, but the exact cause is unknown. The mother may experience the following warning signs of preeclampsia:

  • Headaches
  • Swelling
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Changes in vision
  • Gestational diabetes
  • High blood pressure

The tricky part is, a mother with preeclampsia may experience no symptoms at all. If this condition is not recognized and treated by the doctor, the mother can develop impaired liver or kidney function, blood clots, fluid in the lungs, seizures, or stroke. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, preeclampsia causes more maternal illness and death than any other pregnancy condition worldwide. Conservative estimates, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation, indicate that 76,000 women die worldwide due to preeclampsia during pregnancy each year. Doctor's can catch early signs of preeclampsia by taking your blood pressure each month during your prenatal visit.

Continued Diabetes after Pregnancy

Most women who experience gestational diabetes will not have diabetes after pregnancy. However, a few women may discover they still have diabetes that will need to be managed for the rest of their life.


Keeping your weight within normal limits by diet and exercise can decrease your risk of diabetes before, during, and after pregnancy.

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How Diabetes Complicates Pregnancies for Moms