Gestational Diabetes And Alcohol


Alcohol, by any means, is harmful to our bodies. Even more so when you are expecting or even planning to get pregnant. Read on to know more about how alcohol can put the development of the foetus at risk and affect the mother’s health.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels which develops during pregnancy, and commonly recedes after giving birth. The prevalence of the disease in UK was 20.6% in 2021. The body undergoes several changes during pregnancy. The placenta (temporary organ formed in uterus during pregnancy) produces different hormones, which makes the mother’s body less responsive to insulin. This causes insulin resistance in the body, in which the body cannot meet the demands more insulin to meet the extra needs in pregnancy. The pancreas secrete insulin, which help in the regulation of the body’s energy by balancing the micronutrient level during the fed state.With gestational diabetes, most people assigned female at birth will have insulin resistance during the final trimester, but it can happen at any stage of the pregnancy.


Gestational diabetes usually displays symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, which are common during pregnancy (even without GD). If you have family history of diabetes mellitus, your GP can conduct a diagnostic test between 24 weeks and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Alcohol significantly endangers the pregnancy

There is no safe limit to drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to abnormal facial features of the foetus, low birth weight, poor development of the brain and other organs and later on in life, problems in growth and behavioural problems. It is strongly suggested to avoid drinking alcohol when you are expecting.3

Worsens symptoms of gestational diabetes

Since gestational diabetes does not have any characteristic symptoms, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure as well as preeclampsia, which might prove fatal for the baby as well as detrimental to the mother’s health.3

Increases risk of birth defects

When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol passes through the placenta. The placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy in the uterus and is expelled after childbirth. The placenta supports the child as it helps to clear the foetus’ waste products and supply the foetus with nutrients and oxygen. The liver (important to excrete alcohol) is the last organ to develop in the foetus. This means that the body of the foetus is not efficient at processing alcohol and is thus exposed to the same alcohol concentrations as the mother.

Alcohol use by the mother can expose the foetus to high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs). Long-term studies in humans showed that these children exhibit severe cognitive and behavioural deficits. High BACs are harmful during critical periods of brain development of the foetus.

Alcohol use can affect the development of the baby and cause a condition called FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). A child with FASD possesses these features4:

  • Abnormal facial features.
  • Low body weight and small head size
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor cognitive skills
  • Low Intelligence quotient (IQ)
  • Problems in bones, joints, kidneys, and other organs
  • Impaired speech and learning disabilities
  • Impaired vision

Increases risk of miscarriage and premature labour

Research shows that alcohol use during pregnancy can increase the risk of stillbirths, miscarriages, preterm labour, and sudden infant death syndrome. In addition, binge drinking or heavy drinking during the first trimester shows a two- or threefold increase in the risk of prematurity.5

A report on moderate alcohol intake during pregnancy and the risk of foetal death (published in the International Journal of Epidemiology) showed that low to moderate intake of alcohol during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of spontaneous abortion. The increased risk of miscarriage was restricted to those in their first trimester.6

If you’re worried about your or your loved one’s alcohol intake

If you are trying to conceive or already pregnant, it is strongly advised to stop drinking alcohol. Rather, invest your time and energy in exercise, meditation and relaxation techniques. Prenatal supplements (eg., vitamins, and iron supplements) must be used only as per your GP recommendation. Make sure to avoid undercooked meals and attend your prenatal appointments. Do seek help whenever you feel it is required.


During pregnancy, the placenta can result in insulin resistance in the mother’s body, which leads to the building up of excess glucose in the blood causing gestational diabetes. It is a common disease, and it is highly recommended to inform your GP if you suspect that you might have gestational diabetes. Alcohol usage is not recommended during pregnancy especially among those with GD, as it can lead to complications for you and your baby during and sometimes after birth. There is always medical help and support available to help you have a safe delivery.


  1. Rahman MS, Hossain KS, Das S, Kundu S, Adegoke EO, Rahman MdA, et al. Role of insulin in health and disease: an update. Int J Mol Sci [Internet]. 2021 Jun 15 [cited 2022 Oct 21];22(12):6403. Available from:
  2. CDC. Gestational diabetes [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from:
  3. CDC. Alcohol use during pregnancy [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021 [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from:
  4. Maier SE, West JR. Drinking patterns and alcohol-related birth defects. Alcohol Res Health [Internet]. 2001 [cited 2022 Oct 21];25(3):168–74. Available from:
  5. Bailey BA, Sokol RJ. Prenatal alcohol exposure and miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and sudden infant death syndrome. Alcohol Res Health [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2022 Oct 21];34(1):86–91. Available from:
  6. Andersen A-MN, Andersen PK, Olsen J, Grønbæk M, Strandberg-Larsen K. Moderate alcohol intake during pregnancy and risk of fetal death. Int J Epidemiol. 2012; 41(2):405–13.

Bhashwati Deb Barma

Bachelor of Physiotherapy,M.S., Ramaiah Medical College, India

Bhashwati is a Physiotherapist with a firm grasp of Paediatric physiotherapy and is currently working with special children in the community.

She has 6 years of experience working in hospitals and non-profit organizations set up. As a writer by passion, she is putting up her practical and academic knowledge into her articles. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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