Gestational diabetes poses health risk to babies

By Editor
16th February 2017
Lead stories, Paediatrics Pregnancy Research

Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of suffering from adverse health outcomes, research has shown. 

In a study of nearly 800,000 births in France, which took place after 22 weeks in 2012, of which 7.24 per cent of the mothers had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

The risks of the babies developing health problems were found to be two to four times higher for those who were born to mothers who had type 2 diabetes before pregnancy – than for those with gestational diabetes.

Since gestational diabetes is mainly diagnosed in the later stages of pregnancy, the researchers then looked only at deliveries after 28 weeks to ensure that all women diagnosed with gestational diabetes were included.

The findings showed complications for mothers with gestational diabetes, compared with mothers who did not have the condition, increased.

  • Preterm birth (30 per cent)
  • Caesarean section (40 per cent)
  • Pre-eclampsia or eclampsia (70 per cent)
  • Babies born larger than average (80 per cent)
  • Respiratory distress (10 per cent)
  • Birth trauma (30 per cent)
  • Heart defects (30 per cent)

These increases in risk were found in mothers whose gestational diabetes was treated with both dietary changes and insulin. However, the greatest risk was found in insulin-treated women because they tended to have a more serious condition with harder to control blood sugar levels than those who were diet-treated only.

When the team looked at full-term deliveries after 37 weeks, they found a moderately higher risk of death among newborn babies whose mothers were diabetes-free before conception, and were not treated with insulin for their gestational diabetes.

They say a key finding is that the risk of heart defects in babies is higher when mothers with gestational diabetes are treated with insulin, but not nervous system defects. They say this could be explained by early exposure of the embryo to abnormally high blood sugar levels.

The authors concluded: “We have clearly demonstrated that GDM is a disease related to adverse pregnancy outcomes and that most of the risks are higher in women with insulin-treated GDM.

“By restricting analysis to deliveries after 37 weeks and excluding cases of type 2 diabetes that were undiagnosed before pregnancy, we identified a moderate increase in risk of death to the newborn baby in women with GDM treated with diet only.

Although more investigation is needed, this study helps illuminate the controversy about timing of delivery in GDM pregnancy.”

The study was led by Dr Sophie Jacqueminet of Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris, and colleagues.

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