Short-term neonatal outcomes in women with gestational diabetes treated using metformin versus insulin: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Acta Diabetol. 2023 May;60(5):595-608. doi: 10.1007/s00592-022-02016-5. Epub 2023 Jan 3.


Aims: To expand the evidence base for the clinical use of metformin, we conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the efficacy and safety of metformin versus insulin with respect to short-term neonatal outcomes.

Methods: A comprehensive search of electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, and Web of Science) was performed. Two reviewers extracted the data and calculated pooled estimates by use of a random-effects model. In total, 24 studies involving 4355 participants met the eligibility criteria and were included in the quantitative analyses.

Results: Unlike insulin, metformin lowered neonatal birth weights (mean difference - 122.76 g; 95% confidence interval [CI] - 178.31, - 67.21; p < 0.0001), the risk of macrosomia (risk ratio [RR] 0.68; 95% CI 0.54, 0.86; p = 0.001), the incidence of neonatal intensive care unit admission (RR 0.73; 95% CI 0.61, 0.88; p = 0.0009), and the incidence of neonatal hypoglycemia (RR 0.65; 95% CI 0.52, 0.81; p = 0.0001). Subgroup analysis based on the maximum daily oral dose of metformin indicated that metformin-induced neonatal birth weight loss was independent of the oral dose.

Conclusions: Our meta-analysis provides further evidence that metformin is a safe oral antihyperglycemic drug and has some benefits over insulin when used for the treatment of gestational diabetes, without an increased risk of short-term neonatal adverse outcomes. Metformin may be particularly useful in women with gestational diabetes at high risk for neonatal hypoglycemia, women who want to limit maternal and fetal weight gain, and women with an inability to afford or use insulin safely.

Keywords: Gestational diabetes mellitus; Insulin; Metformin; Neonatal outcomes; Randomized controlled trials.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight
  • Diabetes, Gestational* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia* / chemically induced
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Metformin*
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Weight Gain


  • Metformin
  • Insulin
  • Hypoglycemic Agents