Diabetes May Negatively Affect Fetal Health

Fetuses born to mothers with diabetes are more likely to have hypoglycemia, abnormal size, and malformation.

A recent study shows gestational diabetes and pre-gestational diabetes can be linked to multiple poor health outcomes for the child, such as jaundice, low blood sugar, malformations, and abnormal size.

Diabetes is known to cause a number of adverse health outcomes for adults, including heart disease, obesity, and other high-risk conditions. Investigators also found increased health risks for the mother, as well. The study, published by Diabetologia, examined the risks of gestational and pre-gestational diabetes during pregnancy, along with the potential role of other concomitant diseases caused by hypertensive and thyroid disorders.

Investigators analyzed administrative data regarding pregnancies complicated by diabetes from 2002 to 2012 to determine neonatal outcomes. Included in the study were 1357 pregnancies complicated by gestational diabetes, and 234 complicated by pre-gestational diabetes.

They compared the risks of adverse outcomes for gestational and pre-gestational diabetes pregnancies with normal pregnancies. Findings were adjusted for factors such as age, hypertensive and thyroid disorders, and drug use that may increase health risks.

Investigators discovered that babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes were 10 times more likely to develop neonatal hypoglycemia compared with normal pregnancies, and babies born to mothers with pre-gestation diabetes had 36 times the risk.

Babies born to mothers with gestational and pre-gestational diabetes had a 1.7 and 5.7 times more likely to have small size, respectively, compared with normal pregnancy, according to the study. The risks of increased size, jaundice, and fetal malformations were all increased among babies born to a diabetic mother.

These babies were also more likely to have low levels of calcium and magnesium. Researchers also discovered several other risks for the mother as well.

Mothers with diabetes were more likely to have a Caesarean section than mothers whose pregnancies were not complicated with diabetes. Pre-gestational diabetes was associated with 2.7 times higher risk of respiratory distress and a 46.5 times increased risk of amniotic fluid compared with normal pregnancies, according to the study.

Increased monitoring of mothers with diabetic pregnancies could potentially lessen certain adverse outcomes for the children.

“Both gestational diabetes and diabetes in the mother when she becomes pregnant are associated with adverse outcomes in the baby independently of the presence of other clinical conditions complicating the pregnancy,” the authors concluded. “Greater attention should be placed to the care of pregnant women with gestational diabetes or diabetes.”