Failure to Diagnose Gestational Diabetes


Gestational diabetes occurs when hormones from the placenta block insulin which is produced by the pancreas. This results in the pregnant woman developing high blood sugar. If left untreated, there can be serious consequences for both mother and baby.

Risk Factors for Developing Gestational Diabetes

Pregnancy hormones can block the release of insulin and keep it from doing its job. This causes the blood glucose level in the pregnant woman’s blood to rise.

There are factors a physician can look for that indicate a pregnant woman is at risk for the development of gestational diabetes. Some of those risk factors include a pregnant woman who:

  • Is over the age of 25.
  • Has a family history of diabetes.
  • Comes from an ethnic group known to have a higher risk of diabetes, including Latino, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian, or Pacific Islander.
  • Has high blood pressure.
  • Has a history of unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Was overweight prior to becoming pregnant.
  • Gains too much weight during the pregnancy.
  • Has excess amniotic fluid.
  • Previously gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds or who had a birth defect.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

In many cases, pregnant women who have gestational diabetes have no symptoms. The condition is discovered during routine monitoring and testing. A standard recommendation is that all pregnant women should receive an oral glucose tolerance test between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. Those with high risk factors should receive the test earlier in the pregnancy.

For those who do have symptoms, common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and lethargy.
  • Increased thirst and constantly dry mouth.
  • Increased urination.
  • Nausea after eating and possibly vomiting.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Frequent infections. Common infections are bladder, vagina, and skin.
  • Tingling in the hands and feet.
  • Unusual strong craving for sweets.


There are several different treatment strategies depending on the severity of the condition.

  • Daily blood sugar monitoring.
  • Healthy diet. A nutritionist or dietitian can help mothers with this.
  • Proper exercise.
  • Medication if blood sugar is too high.
  • Daily insulin injections.

The goal is to keep the blood sugar within normal limits during the pregnancy. This is necessary to make sure the fetus progresses normally.

Adverse Consequences to the Mother of Failure to Diagnose Gestational Diabetes: Preeclampsia

When a pregnant woman has developed gestational diabetes that is not diagnosed so is not treated, there may be adverse consequences. Most are the consequences of preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is a condition where the pregnant woman’s blood pressure skyrockets. It can lead to permanent organ damage and is a life-threatening condition for both the mother and the infant. Some results of preeclampsia include.

  • Placental abruption. This is when the placenta detaches from the woman’s uterus. This causes the baby to be deprived of nutrients and oxygen and is a life-threatening complication. It occurs most often in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy. Symptoms include vaginal bleeding, abdominal and back pain. Treatment depends on the severity of the abruption and how close the baby is to full term. In some cases, an emergency cesarean section is required.
  • Poor blood flow to the placenta which decreases oxygen and nutrients to the fetus and can cause brain damage to the baby.
  • Long-term heart and blood vessel diseases.
  • HELLP syndrome caused by the high blood pressure of preeclampsia. It stands for “Hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count.” This creates an emergency and can lead to heart failure, permanent liver and kidney damage, internal bleeding, stroke, and even death.

The mother must be monitored over the next five to 10 years because she is now more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

Adverse Consequences to the Baby of Failure to Diagnose Gestational Diabetes

If gestational diabetes is not treated, the fetus suffers in several ways. The mother’s pancreas must work harder to produce the insulin her body needs. This results in the fetus having high blood glucose levels, which in turns requires its pancreas to create extra insulin in order to get rid of the additional glucose it gets from its mother.

These high glucose levels and extra insulin in the fetus’ bloodstream can result in:

  • Fetal macrosomia. Also known as “fat baby” syndrome.
  • Birth injury of shoulder dystocia. A large fetus traveling through the birth canal is prone to suffering birth injuries, like shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia is when one of the shoulders of the fetus gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during the birthing process. This is an emergency because the shoulder blocks the rest of the baby from being born and can cause oxygen deprivation and brain damage.
  • Birth injury of brachial plexus. The baby’s neck is stretched to one side during the birthing process resulting in damage to the baby’s forearm, hand, and fingers.
  • Infant respiratory distress syndrome. This is more commonly associated with a premature birth but is also found in term baby’s whose mother suffered from undiagnosed and untreated gestational diabetes.
  • Other birth injuries.
  • Stillborn.

How a Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help

If gestational diabetes is diagnosed early enough so it can be monitored and properly treated, many of the adverse effects can be prevented. Healthcare professionals have a duty to provide proper care and to diagnose and treat your health problems when you are pregnant.

Not every adverse effect is due to medical malpractice. Each individual situation is different. But if your physicians negligently failed to accurately diagnose and treat your gestational diabetes, they may be liable for the damages you and your baby have suffered.

If you are concerned that you, your baby, or both of you suffered due to the failure to diagnose your gestational diabetes, contact a member of our legal team at Raynes & Lawn to discuss the circumstances surrounding your claim.

You can fill out our contact form or call us 800-535-1797 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. You must file your medical malpractice claim within an established time after the injury occurred, or after you knew or should have known you or your baby were injured, so call us as soon as possible.

For the general public:  This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

For attorneys:  This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients.  Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines, what might be accurate one day may be inaccurate the next. As such, the contents of this blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for your advice to clients without, again, further research or a consultation with our professionals.