People experiencing anxiety and depression may have a higher risk of gestational diabetes. Doctors acknowledge that receiving a diagnosis of gestational diabetes can add to the person’s stress. Researchers are still exploring the link between the two.

Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy. The hormone insulin controls blood sugar levels, but pregnancy can make some people insulin resistant, which means the body is unable to use the insulin effectively.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 2–10% of pregnant people will experience gestational diabetes yearly.

This article explores the relationship between stress and gestational diabetes. It also explains how to cope with stress and how to manage diabetes during pregnancy.

A pregnant person with gestational diabetes and stress. -1Share on Pinterest
J. Anthony/Stocksy

Many scientists recognize a link between stress and gestational diabetes, but researchers cannot confirm that stress causes it.

Researchers know that blood sugar levels rise when a person experiences stress, according to a 2022 review. If a person’s blood sugar levels remain high for an extended period, this can cause insulin resistance and diabetes.

While the 2022 study talks about diabetes in general, a 2021 systematic review confirmed that anxiety and depression increased the risk of a person developing gestational diabetes but were unsure to what extent.

They add that when a doctor diagnoses someone with gestational diabetes, the diagnosis may increase the likelihood of a person experiencing anxiety and depression.

The researchers also add that people who have gestational diabetes and are anxious or depressed are more likely to experience complications during pregnancy.

Learn more

Learn more about diabetes and stress.

Simple lifestyle changes, such as exercise, may help people with gestational diabetes reduce stress. They may also help prevent gestational diabetes.

The CDC explains that being physically active lowers a person’s blood sugar and stress levels and boosts their mood.

They also recommend the following:

Other factors may also come into play. In 2018, researchers from Turkey investigated how people with gestational diabetes cope with stress.

The results identified that people who were confident and optimistic about their gestational diabetes diagnosis had a better outcome than those who were overwhelmed and frightened by it.

Learn more about the best diet for gestational diabetes.

Diabetes resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on diabetes.

Was this helpful?

Getting help for gestational diabetes

According to the CDC, doctors usually recommend testing for gestational diabetes when a person is between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant.

If the test is positive, doctors will recommend a treatment plan that may involve the person testing their blood sugar levels regularly to keep them stable, a healthy eating plan, and possibly insulin injections.

Learn about screening for gestational diabetes.

According to March of Dimes, stress during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the health of the person and the baby.

They add that stress can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of preeclampsia and preterm birth.

Talking with healthcare professionals may help people recognize the signs of stress and help them find ways of coping with it.

Learn more about high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Pregnancy and parenthood resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on pregnancy and parenthood.

Was this helpful?

According to the CDC, many people with gestational diabetes deliver large babies weighing more than 9 pounds. Doctors may recommend a cesarean delivery.

They also add that having gestational diabetes increases the person’s risk of developing postpartum depression and type 2 diabetes.

They recommend people get their blood sugar levels tested 6–12 weeks after giving birth and again every 1–3 years.

Learn more about how diabetes affects females.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about gestational diabetes and stress.

What triggers gestational diabetes?

According to March of Dimes, many factors can increase a person’s risk of developing gestational diabetes. These include:

The CDC adds that gestational diabetes varies between ethnic and racial groups. They state that Asian and Hispanic people have higher rates of gestational diabetes.

Learn more about the maternal health of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

How does emotional stress affect glucose levels in pregnancy?

Emotional stress increases blood sugar levels as part of the body’s fight, flight, or freeze response. In most situations, once the immediate stress recedes, the person’s blood sugar returns to its usual levels.

During pregnancy, a person may be experiencing additional emotional stress and have constantly high blood sugar. Over time, this reduces the person’s ability to use insulin properly, and they can develop gestational diabetes.

Learn about insulin resistance.

Stress can contribute to the development of gestational diabetes, but doctors cannot confirm its a cause.

Having overweight, eating foods high in calories, fat, sugar, salt, and processed carbohydrates and low in essential nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals, can increase a person’s risk of gestational diabetes.

Not being physically active can also contribute to this risk.

Learning to manage stress may reduce the risk of pregnancy and post-delivery complications associated with gestational diabetes.