Ask the Experts: Can diabetes during pregnancy affect my baby?

Gestational diabetes in a pregnant woman can potentially harm the unborn child in several ways. Here’s all you need to know.
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Dr Geetha Bhavani Updated: 30 Oct 2023, 15:20 pm IST
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Prenatal nutrient balance is critical to have a healthy child. Nutritional deficiencies can have multiple consequences, one of them is diabetes, when diagnosed for the first-time during pregnancy. This is also gestational diabetes (gestation). Gestational diabetes, like other forms of diabetes, affects how the cells use sugar (glucose). 

High blood sugar levels caused by gestational diabetes can damage your pregnancy and your baby’s health. Although every pregnancy issue is alarming, there is some good news. Pregnant women can help monitor gestational diabetes by consuming nutritious foods, exercising, and taking medication if necessary. Blood sugar control will help you and your baby stay healthy and avoid a stressful delivery.

Blood sugar levels in women with gestational diabetes normally return to normal shortly after birth. However, if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you’re more likely to have type 2 diabetes. Blood sugar levels would need to be checked more often.

Issues and problems that happen when you have gestational diabetes 

Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can result in dangerously high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can trigger issues for both you and your infant, including an increased probability of requiring a C-section delivery.

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Complications that could impact your child

If you have gestational diabetes, your baby is more likely to suffer from these problems:

1. Overweight at birth: Blood sugar levels that are higher than average in mothers may cause their babies to grow too big. Big infants, those weighing more than 9 pounds, are more likely to get wedged in the birth canal, suffer birth complications, or require a C-section.

2. Premature (early) birth: High blood sugar levels can increase the chances of a woman going into labor early, giving birth to a child before her due date. Since the baby is massive, early delivery may be advised.

3. Breathing problems are serious: Babies born prematurely to mothers who have gestational diabetes are at a high risk of developing respiratory distress syndrome, which makes breathing difficult.

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4. Low blood sugar levels(hypoglycemia): Shortly after birth, babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes may experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Severe hypoglycemia can result in seizures in the infant. The baby’s blood sugar levels can be brought back to normal with prompt feedings and, in some cases, an intravenous glucose solution.

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Obesity and type 2 diabetes are conditions that develop later in life. In fact, they are more likely to occur in children, whose mothers have gestational diabetes. Stillbirth is a condition in which a baby is born but untreated gestational diabetes may lead to the death of a baby, before or soon after birth.

Diabetes during pregnancy can also put you at risk for:

1. Preeclampsia and high blood pressure: Gestational diabetes increases the risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia, a severe pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure and other symptoms that can endanger both the mother and the baby’s lives.

2. Having a surgical delivery is a good option (C-section): If you have gestational diabetes, you’re more likely to have a C-section.

3. Diabetes in the future: If you’ve had gestational diabetes before, you’re more likely to have it again in the future. As you get older, the chances of developing type 2 diabetes increase.

Preventative measures for gestational diabetes

When it comes to avoiding gestational diabetes, there are no promises, but the healthier you become before your pregnancy, the better. If you’ve had gestational diabetes before, making these healthy choices could lower the chances of getting it again in potential pregnancies or developing type 2 diabetes.

1. Consume nutritious foods: Choose fibre-rich foods that are low in fat and calories. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains should be prioritised. To help you achieve your goals without sacrificing flavour or nutrition, strive for variety. Keep an eye on portion sizes.

2. Move your body: Exercising before and during your pregnancy will help you avoid gestational diabetes. On most days of the week, aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity. Take a daily brisk stroll. Take a ride on your bicycle or take laps in the pool. Small bursts of movement, such as parking farther away from the store or taking a short walk break, all add up.

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3. Pregnancy should begin at a healthy weight: If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, losing weight ahead of time can help you have a healthier pregnancy. Concentrate on making long-term improvements to your dietary habits that will benefit you through pregnancy, such as eating more fruits and vegetables.

4. Don’t gain any more weight than is necessary: It is natural and safe to gain weight during pregnancy. However, gaining too much weight too quickly may increase your chances of developing gestational diabetes. It is always recommended to consult with a certified doctor on how much weight one can gain in a fair period of time, which works for their body.

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About the Author

Dr Geetha Bhavani, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Bangalore ...Read More

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