Gestational Diabetes and the Risk of Birth Injuries

Pregnancy is a time of joy and anticipation, but doctors warn that common medical conditions like gestational diabetes can overshadow that joy.  Gestational diabetes may increase the risk of birth injuries, so it is important that expectant mothers understand the condition, how it is diagnosed, and how it is treated.  Let’s take a look at gestational diabetes and the risk of birth injuries.

If you have questions about your individual health, you should contact your doctor to address your concerns.  If you would like to know more about birth injuries and your legal rights, contact Birth Injury Guide to speak with one of our birth injury attorneys.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes mellitus that develops during pregnancy.  Gestational diabetes is similar to other forms of the condition in that it affects how sugar (glucose) is broken down in your body.  When your body digests food, some of it is processed into glucose, which enters your bloodstream.  To regulate your blood sugar levels, your pancreas produces insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that regulates glucose levels by moving them from your blood stream into your body’s energy cells.

Unlike other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy and generally resolves with treatment or after delivery.  The exact cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, but scientists believe it is related to the placenta releasing certain hormones that can increase your blood sugar levels.  These hormones can impair insulin regulation mechanisms leaving your blood sugar elevated.  As your pregnancy progresses and your baby grows, the amount of hormones released by the placenta increases, which can make blood sugar levels more difficult to manage.

Gestational diabetes occurs in only seven out of every 100 women, or seven percent of pregnancies.  Most women are required to undergo tests for gestational diabetes as part of their routine prenatal care.  It is important to ensure that this test is done properly and is followed up on if the results suggest you may be diabetic.

Even though gestational diabetes can be controlled and often resolves after pregnancy, some women experience long-term complications, such as heart disease, kidney problems, and blindness.

Gestational Diabetes and Birth Injuries

In most cases, with proper diagnosis and a sound management plan, gestational diabetes does not cause serious complications.  Without a gestational diabetes diagnosis and an appropriate management plan, it can cause more serious complications or lead to other health conditions.  Some of these complications and conditions include:

  • Preeclampsia: A condition where high blood pressure leads to stroke, seizures, or failure of organs like the kidneys and liver.
  • Prematurity: Gestational diabetes may cause you to delivery your baby prematurely, or before 37 weeks gestation. The earlier you delivery, the greater the chances of health complications.
  • Large Weight Birth: Gestational diabetes can also result in larger than average birth weight. This condition is called fetal macrosomia. Baby’s weighing more than nine pounds increase your likelihood of needing a Cesarean section (c-section), and increases the risk of birth injuries during delivery.
  • Stillbirth: Stillbirth occurs when a baby dies in the womb at 20 weeks gestation or later.

Complications during pregnancy, labor or delivery, can have a devastating impact on the outcome for you and your child.  Depending on the complications, doctors may need to take swift action or use assistive tools during delivery.  It is incredibly important that complications are taken seriously and appropriate measures taken to avoid further harm.

Failure to diagnose gestational diabetes is dangerous for you, but also for your baby.  For infants,  some of the complications of gestational diabetes include:

  • Jaundice
  • Breathing Problems
  • Low Blood Sugar
  • Heart Defects
  • Brain Defects

Any of these complications can be dangerous, or even life-threatening depending on your overall health and that of your baby, other complications, and early detection and treatment.

What are My Chances of Getting Gestational Diabetes?

There is no test that can tell you “yes” or “no” about whether you will develop gestational diabetes.  There are some risk factors, however, that may increase your chances, such as:

  • Being older than 25 years old
  • Being overweight
  • Gaining a lot of weight during your pregnancy
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Being African-American, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American. Rates of gestational diabetes are higher among women in these categories.
  • Having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes in a prior pregnancy
  • Having given birth to a child weighing over nine pounds previously
  • Having given birth to a stillborn baby

If you have any of these risk factors, you should talk to your doctor about your chances of developing diabetes.

Protect Yourself and Your Legal Rights

Some healthcare systems are implementing policies to test for diabetes at the start of pregnancy, as well as later during routine prenatal care.  The goal of such testing is to help identify women who already have diabetes, as well as those who may be at a higher risk for developing gestational diabetes.

Unfortunately, despite advances in medicine and better policies, many cases of gestational diabetes go undiagnosed.  Healthcare providers have a duty to address concerns, recognize risk factors and perform tests as needed to make an accurate diagnosis.  Failure to do so can be detrimental to your health, and may be a violation of your legal rights.

To learn more about your legal rights as a patient, contact Birth Injury Guide.  Our birth injury attorneys can help you understand your legal rights if you are concerned about medical malpractice or negligence.  Fill out our online form to schedule your free case review.

Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.