Women with poor diabetes control more likely to have baby with birth defect

Women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are more likely to have a baby with a birth defect than women without diabetes, according to a research study cited in The Guardian.

Research from Newcastle University found that pregnant women with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes have a 7 percent chance of giving birth to a child with a major congenital abnormality. Women without diabetes have only a 2 percent chance.

According to researchers, the mother’s blood glucose level at time of conception was linked to having a higher risk of having a baby with a birth defect.

Research found that those with diabetes with lower incomes or who failed to take folic acid were at higher risk.

The study of more than 400,000 pregnant women in England marked the first time scientists have quantified the birth defect risk in diabetic women, according to researchers. Results of the study were published in the journal Diabetologia.

Pregnancy planning crucial
It’s known that some medications taken by patients with type 2 diabetes can cause problems for a developing fetus. In those cases, women need to take higher doses of folic acid.

Therefore, the study recommends that women with diabetes consult their physician if considering becoming pregnant, and to use contraception to avoid unexpected pregnancies.

High blood glucose levels and ketones pass through the placenta to the baby. These increase the chance of birth defects and miscarriage, according to the American Diabetes Association. In particular, ketones in large amounts are poisonous to the body.

The baby’s organs form early in the first trimester. Therefore, it’s important to get blood glucose levels under control before getting pregnant. The American Diabetes Association recommends three to six months of good glucose control prior to getting pregnant.

Risks of high blood glucose levels during pregnancy include premature delivery, miscarriage, birth defects (not usually a risk for women with gestational diabetes), having a large baby, low blood glucose at birth, prolonged jaundice, and respiratory distress syndrome.

Sources: The Guardian, American Diabetes Association

Photo by John Nyboer

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