Risk of Birth Defects Quadruples with Gestational Diabetes

A recent study has found that women with gestational diabetes are at four times the risk of having a baby with birth defects and may suffer other pregnancy complications as a result of the condition.

Study authors have suggested pregnant women who have diabetes should receive extra care to try and lower the risk associated with high blood sugar levels and to improve likelihood of having an uncomplicated delivery and healthy baby.

 Risk of Birth Defects with Gestational DiabetesThe study conducted by the Newcastle University and the Regional Maternity Survey Office found that in as many 1 in 13 deliveries where the mothers have had diabetes, the baby could have a birth defect or a major congenital anomaly.

It is also advisable for diabetic women to get appropriate care to control blood sugar levels before even getting pregnant.

Women should also be informed about the higher risk of birth abnormalities, miscarriage, stillbirth, very large babies, the risk of having to have a C section. Though these risks can be lowered to an extent by proper control of blood sugar, they cannot be eliminated.

The study found differences in the rate of birth abnormality among women will well-controlled and poorly controlled blood sugar. Then the blood glucose levels were kept to levels below 6.1%, the risk of birth defects was about 1 in 34.

However this risk went up to 1 in 6 when the blood sugar levels shot up to 12.5%. The researchers therefore urged that women should have their blood sugar levels well controlled before pregnancy and keep them controlled through pregnancy to improve chances of having a healthy baby.

Future problems with gestational diabetes

Though gestational diabetes will usually resolve itself after the birth of the baby, the condition is known to put a woman at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life as well. Research has shown that if a woman needed insulin to manage her gestational diabetes she has a 50% risk of developing diabetes within five years following her pregnancy.

Not only is the baby likely to have growth abnormalities such as being very large for gestational age or being underweight at birth, it is more likely that the baby may need neonatal intensive care for some time after birth. The baby will also be more likely to have metabolic problems later in life. The baby will be at higher risk of being obese as a child and as an adult and is also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.


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