Long term implications of gestational diabetes

If you have had gestational diabetes, you can help to reduce your risk of future health issues by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and eating a balanced diet.

Gestational diabetes only affects pregnant people. It normally goes away after you give birth. But once you’ve had it, you are more likely to get: 

  • gestational diabetes again in future pregnancies
  • type 2 diabetes.

Your baby might also be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life, or become overweight or obese.

The good news is that you can both reduce the risk of future health issues by staying a healthy weight, exercising often, and eating a healthy diet.

This article is about how gestational diabetes might affect you and your baby in the future. You can also find out how the condition might affect your current pregnancy, unborn baby, and labour and birth.

Your risk of gestational diabetes (again) in the future

More than 1 in 3 pregnant people who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes get it again if they have another baby. 

How can I reduce this risk?

If you’re planning to get pregnant again, you can reduce your chances of getting gestational diabetes in your next pregnancy by having a healthy lifestyle. This will also:

Find out more about getting pregnant if you’ve had gestational diabetes before.

Your risk of type 2 diabetes in the future

If you’ve had gestational diabetes, you are now more likely to get type 2 diabetes in the future. Up to half of people with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years of giving birth. 

Your risk of type 2 diabetes is also higher if you:

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition that can affect your daily life. If you develop it, you will need to make healthy lifestyle changes and have check-ups to lower your risk of further health problems.

How can I reduce this risk?

You can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes – and many other health problems – by:

Making healthy changes and keeping them going can be hard. Get support from friends and family, as well as any local services. You could ask your GP about using:

  • a weight loss programme or group
  • a registered dietitian or exercise specialist
  • a type 2 diabetes prevention programme
  • local NHS Stop Smoking Services
  • other local services to help you move more and eat better.

Diabetes UK also has lots of information about preventing type 2 diabetes.

How will I know if I have type 2 diabetes?

You should have a blood test soon after you give birth, to make sure your blood sugar (glucose) levels have returned to normal. 

You should then have a blood test to check for type 2 diabetes 6 to 13 weeks after giving birth, and again once a year after that if the result is normal. Speak to your GP to find out more about getting tested. 

Don’t wait for a year if you have any symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Speak to your GP if you:

  • need to wee a lot, especially at night
  • feel really thirsty
  • feel more tired than usual
  • lose weight without trying to
  • have genital itching or thrush
  • notice cuts or wounds take longer to heal
  • have blurred eyesight
  • feel more hungry than usual.

Risks for your baby in later life

Many babies who are born to someone with gestational diabetes have no related health problems. But research suggests that your baby may be at greater risk of becoming overweight or obese, and of developing diabetes in later life. 

How can I reduce these risks?

While you are pregnant, you can reduce the risks to your unborn child by doing your best to manage your blood sugar levels

After the birth, there are lots of things you can do to protect your child’s health.

Breastfeeding has lasting benefits for your baby, which include reducing their risk of obesity and diabetes when they get older. If you have trouble breastfeeding, there is lots of support you can access. You can ask your midwife or health visitor for more information if you want to persevere. 

There are other things you can do to reduce your child’s risk of future health problems, such as helping them to: 

  • exercise
  • eat healthy meals
  • stay a healthy weight.

You can get your baby to be active from an early age by having some tummy time each day. This means giving them some time lying on their tummy.

It helps your baby to build the muscles they need for sitting, crawling and then even walking. Tummy time is also a great way to bond with your baby

When you start giving your baby solid foods (weaning), try to offer them a wide range of foods. This will get them used to a varied, healthy diet from a young age.

Start for Life has lots of advice about healthy lifestyle choices for you and your baby. They also have an email service that sends tips that are tailored to your child’s age.

Gestational diabetes and your mental health

Because gestational diabetes may have affected your pregnancy and labour, it may also have affected your mental health

For many people, gestational diabetes becomes a distant memory once their baby is born. But others still feel anxious, perhaps about their future health or what might happen if they get pregnant again. 

If your experience of gestational diabetes or birth has stayed with you in some way, or if you are worried about ongoing health problems, talk to your health visitor, midwife or GP. 

You can also speak to one of our midwives on the Tommy's Midwives' Helpline. You can call free on 0800 014 7800 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, or email us at [email protected].

Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, Diabetes UK (2021). Gestational diabetes - Information for you. Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/media/b10mqyfw/pi-gestational-diabetes.pdf (Accessed January 2024) (Page last reviewed 09/2021)

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2020). Diabetes in pregnancy: management from preconception to the postnatal period. NICE guideline 3. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng3 (Accessed January 2024) (Page last reviewed 16/12/2020)

Nakshine VS, Jogdand SD (2023). ‘A Comprehensive Review of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: Impacts on Maternal Health, Fetal Development, Childhood Outcomes, and Long-Term Treatment Strategies’. Cureus. 15(10):e47500. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.47500

Diabetes UK (nd). Diabetes risk factors. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/types-of-diabetes/type-2/diabetes-risk-factors (Accessed January 2024)

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2017). Type 2 diabetes: prevention in people at high risk. NICE Public Health Guideline 38. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph38 (Accessed January 2024) (Page last reviewed 15/09/2017)

Diabetes UK (nd). What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes? https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/diabetes-symptoms (Accessed January 2024)

Horta BL, Loret de Mola C, et al. (2015). ‘Long-term consequences of breastfeeding on cholesterol, obesity, systolic blood pressure and type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis’. Acta Paediatrica. 104(S467):30–7. https://doi.org/10.1111/apa.13133

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2014). Maternal and child nutrition. NICE Public Health Guideline 11. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph11 (Accessed January 2024) (Page last reviewed 01/11/2014)

Zheng M, D’Souza NJ, et al. (2024). ‘Breastfeeding and the Longitudinal Changes of Body Mass Index in Childhood and Adulthood: A Systematic Review.' Advances in Nutrition. 15(1):100152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.advnut.2023.100152

Review dates
Reviewed: 06 March 2024
Next review: 06 March 2027