Gestational diabetes mellitus and macrosomia: a literature review

Ann Nutr Metab. 2015:66 Suppl 2:14-20. doi: 10.1159/000371628. Epub 2015 Jun 2.


Background: Fetal macrosomia, defined as a birth weight ≥ 4,000 g, may affect 12% of newborns of normal women and 15-45% of newborns of women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). The increased risk of macrosomia in GDM is mainly due to the increased insulin resistance of the mother. In GDM, a higher amount of blood glucose passes through the placenta into the fetal circulation. As a result, extra glucose in the fetus is stored as body fat causing macrosomia, which is also called 'large for gestational age'. This paper reviews studies that explored the impact of GDM and fetal macrosomia as well as macrosomia-related complications on birth outcomes and offers an evaluation of maternal and fetal health.

Summary: Fetal macrosomia is a common adverse infant outcome of GDM if unrecognized and untreated in time. For the infant, macrosomia increases the risk of shoulder dystocia, clavicle fractures and brachial plexus injury and increases the rate of admissions to the neonatal intensive care unit. For the mother, the risks associated with macrosomia are cesarean delivery, postpartum hemorrhage and vaginal lacerations. Infants of women with GDM are at an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese at a young age (during adolescence) and are more likely to develop type II diabetes later in life. Besides, the findings of several studies that epigenetic alterations of different genes of the fetus of a GDM mother in utero could result in the transgenerational transmission of GDM and type II diabetes are of concern.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiopathology
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cesarean Section
  • Diabetes, Gestational / genetics
  • Diabetes, Gestational / physiopathology*
  • Dystocia / etiology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Fetal Macrosomia / complications
  • Fetal Macrosomia / etiology*
  • Fetal Macrosomia / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Overweight / etiology
  • Pancreas / embryology
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Shoulder


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin