Most people with well-controlled gestational diabetes have full-term deliveries. However, the condition can cause complications, such as preeclampsia and a larger-than-average fetus, which may require early delivery.

While experts do not have an exact number for the average week of delivery with gestational diabetes, most advise full-term pregnancies for those without significant complications.

In some cases, they may recommend delivery a few weeks early for the safety of both the birthing parent and the baby. They may also advise cesarean delivery, as a larger fetus can cause issues during vaginal delivery.

Read on to learn about average delivery times with gestational diabetes, reasons for early delivery, risk factors, and more.

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According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), most people with well-controlled gestational diabetes have full-term pregnancies. Experts consider full-term as 37 weeks.

There is no data on delivery time for people with gestational diabetes, so experts cannot be sure about the average week. However, for most people without complications, delivery should happen within a typical timeframe.

Having gestational diabetes does make people more likely to deliver via C-section, even if they carry to term. This is because, in people with gestational diabetes, the body passes too much sugar to the fetus, causing it to grow larger than usual. The medical name for a larger-than-average fetus is macrosomia.

Although many people with gestational diabetes have full-term pregnancies, the condition can lead to various complications that cause preterm delivery. Some people may go into labor early, while others may have labor induced with medications under the advice of a doctor.

Macrosomia

Fetal macrosomia is when a fetus weighs more than 9 pounds, or 4.1 kilograms. Having a fetus that is larger than usual can place more strain on the birthing parent’s body. In some cases, it can cause complications such as:

  • delivery issues
  • heavy bleeding after delivery
  • severe tears during birth

Therefore, if a fetus has grown too large, a doctor may recommend a slightly preterm cesarean delivery. However, they will likely encourage the birthing parent to continue carrying the fetus to full-term as long as it does not cause adverse health effects.

Learn more about fetal macrosomia.

Preeclampsia

High blood pressure during pregnancy, also called preeclampsia, is more common in people with gestational diabetes.

Having high blood pressure places more strain on the body. In some cases, it can cause heart issues, which can be life threatening for the birthing parent. If preeclampsia progresses to a point where it is dangerous for the parent, a doctor will likely recommend early delivery.

Some signs of preeclampsia include:

If a person has symptoms of preeclampsia, they should seek medical attention.

Learn more about preeclampsia.

In most cases, early delivery with gestational diabetes is safe. The associated complications, such as macrosomia and preeclampsia, may only require delivery a few weeks early. As experts class 37 weeks as full-term, delivering before the standard 40-week mark is safe.

However, infants born before 37 weeks can still be healthy and thriving. Although there is no official week considered to mark a “viable” fetus, a large Canadian study showed that 87% of infants born at 26 weeks survived.

When considering early delivery, a doctor will consider the risks to both the parent and the fetus. For example, if a birthing parent has severe preeclampsia, the benefits of early delivery for both parent and child outweigh the risks of slightly preterm delivery.

Recommendations vary significantly based on a person’s individual circumstances, pregnancy complications, and healthcare access. The ACOG advises that people with poorly controlled diabetes or vascular complications should deliver before 39 weeks.

Having gestational diabetes can increase a person’s risk of other pregnancy and delivery complications. This does not mean that everyone with gestational diabetes will have difficulties, but it is something for people to be aware of.

According to a 2020 study of pregnant women in Ethiopia, the incidence of adverse maternal outcomes was 52.9% in those with gestational diabetes and just 8.1% in those without. The study noted that the women with gestational diabetes were more likely to have:

However, it is important to note that the study authors stated that a high dropout rate among participants affected their data. In addition, the study did not investigate the differences in outcomes based on treatment methods. Therefore, outcomes may significantly improve for those with adequate medical attention.

Various factors can cause gestational diabetes, and a person cannot prevent it in many cases. If a person does develop the condition, it is important to follow a doctor’s advice to manage it. Well-controlled gestational diabetes does not significantly affect pregnancy and delivery, so management is key.

Certain factors can increase a person’s risk of gestational diabetes. They include:

It is essential for people to attend all prenatal checkups and appointments. Many healthcare professionals screen for gestational diabetes at 24–28 weeks — the earlier a person knows they have the condition, the better they can manage it.

Additionally, if a person knows that they have risk factors for gestational diabetes, they can speak with a doctor about early screening.

Learn more about preventing gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can cause pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia and a larger-than-average fetus, that may cause a person to deliver early. Many people with these conditions will need a cesarean delivery instead of a vaginal delivery.

For a person with well-controlled gestational diabetes, the risks of significant complications and preterm delivery are very low. A doctor can advise individuals on the safest time to deliver for both parent and baby.