What happens after birth with gestational diabetes?

For most women with gestational diabetes, blood glucose levels return to normal immediately after the birth.

The healthcare team will usually stop any diabetes-related medication as soon as you have given birth. However, you or your baby will receive extra monitoring, and perhaps extra care, as a result of the gestational diabetes.

Your baby after the birth

Gestational diabetes can directly affect your baby’s blood glucose levels. That means that he could be born with low blood glucose. This could lead to serious consequences if it is not treated, but your team will be aware of these risks and will know what to do. He may also have jaundice (which is usually harmless if treated) and may also have increased risk of breathing difficulties.

You will be encouraged to feed your baby within half an hour after birth and then every two-to-three hours until his blood glucose levels stabilise. Two-to-four hours after the birth, the healthcare team will test his blood glucose level. They will do this by pricking his heel to get a drop of blood for testing. Your baby will not enjoy this, but try not to let it upset you. The test is done to keep your baby safe.

If your baby’s blood glucose remains low, he might need some extra help to increase his blood glucose levels, such as being put on a drip or being tube fed. He may need to spend some time being monitored or treated in the neonatal unit – especially if there are extra complications. However the hospital will try to keep him in the ward with you wherever this is possible.

"I was an emotional wreck afterwards for a whole week, crying all the time. I didn't like seeing my baby with tubes in him and he had jaundice as well so we weren't allowed to go home. But now, he's fabulous; constantly crawling around, he's a really busy baby!" Aisha, mum of one

You after the birth

Your blood glucose should be tested before you leave the hospital. Even if your glucose has returned to normal, at this stage you should receive information and support about your risk of developing type 2 diabetes in future and the importance of weight loss, healthy diet and exercise.

Your glucose levels will be tested again 6–13 weeks after the birth – often at your postnatal check, which takes place about six weeks after your baby is born.

If your blood glucose levels are still high, then this is no longer gestational diabetes, and it is possible that you have type 2 diabetes. If your test is normal, your healthcare team should offer you an HbA1c test for diabetes each year as you are at higher risk of developing it. They may monitor your waist measurement and weight. You may also be offered support to lose weight, eat better or become more active, depending on your other risk factors.

A few months later

After a few months this stage will be over and you will be on to the next phase of life: caring for your baby. But for your own wellbeing, it is important not to think that it will simply disappear with the birth of your baby. This is because if you have had gestational diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing the condition again in future pregnancies, as well as type 2 diabetes in later life. Gestational diabetes is an early warning sign that you can use to your advantage. You now have the chance to make the lifestyle changes to help reduce that risk for the longer term.

Read about the longer term implications of gestational diabetes

If you become pregnant again

If you become pregnant again, you are at higher risk of having gestational diabetes again. For this reason, talk to your doctor when you are planning your next pregnancy. You should be screened for diabetes before becoming pregnant again to make sure that your blood glucose is at a safe level, and as soon as you become pregnant you will need to monitor your blood glucose levels.

Sources

Last reviewed on March 1st, 2015. Next review date March 1st, 2018.

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