Gestational Diabetes and Mental Health


If you have been told that you have gestational diabetes, it is normal to feel anxious. If the condition is diagnosed and effectively controlled, the majority of pregnant persons who develop gestational diabetes have normal pregnancies and healthy newborns. Being pregnant may be a very emotional process, and it could be beneficial to talk to someone if you are feeling upset or anxious. 

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition where glucose, a type of blood sugar, is too high, and this develops during pregnancy and goes away after giving birth. Although this can happen during any stage of pregnancy, it is more prevalent in the second and third trimesters. It occurs when your body is unable to produce enough of the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels, to fulfil your increased needs during pregnancy. Insulin resistance (IR) is linked to pregnancy and may increase the risk of developing diabetes in some people. In the United States of America, 2 to 10% of pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes. Treatment of gestational diabetes starts with non-medicated measures such as dietary changes, exercise, and glucose monitoring.1 A minimum of 150 minutes of weekly exercise or 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five times a week is advised for persons with gestational diabetes. There are several complications, including an increased risk of developing diabetes, preeclampsia, hypertension, and an increased risk of having to undergo a Caesarean. It is said that around 50 per cent of pregnant people with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes.2

There are several factors that put pregnant persons at risk of developing gestational diabetes including:

  • Being of Black, South Asian, Middle Eastern, or African-Caribbean descent
  • Having a parent or sibling with diabetes mellitus 
  • Having a body mass index (BMI) that is above 30 - This can be calculated using a BMI weight calculator
  • Having a baby before which weighed 10 pounds (4.5 kg) or more at birth
  • Having gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy


Gestational diabetes does not usually cause any symptoms. However, sometimes there are signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes, which include urinating more frequently than usual, increased thirst, blurred vision, weight loss, itching around the vagina, feeling tired, thrush episodes, and cuts that heal frequently. However, these symptoms are also associated with pregnancy in general, so having these signs does not necessarily mean that you have gestational diabetes.

Having gestational diabetes is associated with a higher risk of mental health problems

Antenatal depression is a condition in which a person develops depression while pregnant. People who experience antenatal depressive symptoms are more likely to get gestational diabetes.3

Following the birth of their child, many parents suffer from postnatal depression. Postpartum depression is a type of depression that happens after having a baby. It is said that there is an increased risk of postpartum depression in people who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes during their pregnancy.4 16% of parents with a gestational diabetes diagnosis report having postpartum depression compared to around 9% of parents without a gestational diabetes diagnosis.4 

The psychological stress of gestational diabetes

Studies show that when people with gestational diabetes are aware that uncontrolled diabetes can cause pregnancy-related problems and negative neonatal outcomes, they are more likely to experience prenatal sadness, worry, and stress.5,6 Your blood glucose levels may rise as a result of stress. Stress might also lead you to engage in unhealthy habits like smoking, unhealthy eating, or overeating. You and your baby will stay as healthy as possible if you learn to manage your stress and relax more.

The connection between gestational diabetes, depression, and anxiety

There is a strong relationship between gestational diabetes and depression, according to research. It is normal to feel upset after getting a diagnosis like gestational diabetes. One study shows that neonatal respiratory distress and the prevalence of depression symptoms in parents with gestational diabetes are positively correlated.7 Therefore, an early diagnosis and treatment following a diagnosis of gestational diabetes in expecting parents are important, and you should try to recognise the early symptoms of depression.

There is also a relationship between gestational diabetes and anxiety. This is expected when dealing with a condition like gestational diabetes and worrying about your unborn child. In one study, the number of people with gestational diabetes who had anxiety symptoms was 59%.8

How to support a loved one diagnosed with gestational diabetes?

If you are close to someone who has a diabetes diagnosis, there are several ways you can help and support them:

  • Research about the disease - taking the time to learn about the disorder and understand what they are going through can help your loved one to feel supported. It can also help you understand the difference between myths and facts.
  • Plan - It might be beneficial to have a plan in place with a loved one in case of a diabetes-related complication or emergency. Perhaps keep a note of their medication just in case this ever occurs.
  • Encouragement - Helping your loved one to stay active or to stick to a healthy diet can help encourage them and help their mental well-being as well as their physical health.

If you’re worried about your or your loved one’s mental health

Mind - 0300 123 3393 (Infoline) - Mind is a charity that offers support and advice to those with mental health problems.

Anxiety UK  - 03444 775 774 (helpline) or 07537 416 905 (text) - This charity provides support and advice for anyone who is suffering from anxiety.

NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) - - The NHS provides counselling and therapy services. You are able to self-refer to these services if needed. Please note that this service is only available in England.

Samaritans - 116 123 (freephone) - A charity that provides emotional support for those who are struggling to cope, having suicidal thoughts, or are feeling distressed.

You should see a doctor if you:

  • Have symptoms of depression and anxiety that are not improving.
  • Find your mood affects your work, relationships with your family and friends, and everyday life.
  • Have thoughts of suicide or self-harm.


Gestational diabetes is diabetes diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy and disappears after pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects the blood sugar levels of an individual. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are prevalent in people with gestational diabetes. If you are suffering with your mental health, there are several helplines that you can talk to, or you can visit your doctor.


  1. Quintanilla BS, Heba Mahdy. Gestational Diabetes [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 20]. Available from:
  2. CDC. Gestational Diabetes [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 20]. Available from:,your%20levels%20are%20on%20target.
  3. Minschart C, De Weerdt K, Elegeert A, Van Crombrugge P, Moyson C, Verhaeghe J, et al. Antenatal Depression and Risk of Gestational Diabetes, Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes, and Postpartum Quality of Life. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism [Internet]. 2021 Mar 10 [cited 2022 Oct 20];106(8):e3110–24. Available from:
  4. Minschart C, De Weerdt K, Elegeert A, Van Crombrugge P, Moyson C, Verhaeghe J, et al. Antenatal Depression and Risk of Gestational Diabetes, Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes, and Postpartum Quality of Life. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism [Internet]. 2021 Mar 10 [cited 2022 Oct 20];106(8):e3110–24. Available from:
  5. Dalfrà MG, Nicolucci A, Bisson T, Bonsembiante B, Lapolla A. Quality of life in pregnancy and post-partum: a study in diabetic patients. Quality of Life Research [Internet]. 2011 Jun 2 [cited 2022 Oct 20];21(2):291–8. Available from:
  6. Changes in Health Status Experienced by Women with Gestational Diabetes and Pregnancy-Induced Hypertensive Disorders | Journal of Women’s Health [Internet]. Journal of Women’s Health. 2021 [cited 2022 Oct 20]. Available from:
  7. Lee KW, Ching SM, Hoo FK, Ramachandran V, Chong SC, Tusimin M, et al. Neonatal outcomes and its association among gestational diabetes mellitus with and without depression, anxiety and stress symptoms in Malaysia: A cross-sectional study. Midwifery [Internet]. 2020 Feb [cited 2022 Oct 20];81:102586. Available from:
  8. Fu F, Yan P, You S, Mao X, Qiao T, Fu L, et al. The pregnancy-related anxiety characteristics in women with gestational diabetes mellitus: why should we care? BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth [Internet]. 2021 Jun 10 [cited 2022 Oct 20];21(1). Available from:

Dechante Johnson

BSc Neuroscience, University of Exeter, England

Dechante is a 3rd year neuroscience student at the University of Exeter. She has recently carried out research at the University of Western Ontario, Canada where she investigated the "Sensory filtering in Autisic Models". Dechante's main interests are clinical neuroscience, behavioural sciences, health policy and understanding the inequities in healthcare. She is particularly interested in using interdisciplinary biomedical research to answer complex questions and global problems in medicine and health. Dechante is passionate about medical communications and believes that patients should be fully aware of the options available to them and give the public complex information about health into simplistic terms. 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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