Pregnancy and Diabetes – What Will Happen to my Baby?
Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes
If you were recently diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the first thing that you probably worried about was the health and safety of your unborn baby. Have no fear as the majority of mothers who develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancy have healthy babies. That is, as long as they followed their doctor’s orders and kept their blood sugar levels under control. Most women can successfully control their blood sugar (glucose) levels with diet and exercise, but some may need medication, including insulin shots. Poorly maintained blood sugar levels can have consequences to your baby.
When your blood sugars are high, some of the excess sugar will travel to your baby’s blood. Your baby will then need to produce more insulin to process this extra blood sugar. The access sugar that you baby now has will cause him to gain weight. One of the biggest complications of having gestational diabetes is macrosomia, which is when the baby is too large to enter the birth canal. In the event that your midwife or doctor suspects your baby to be large, a cesarean section may be recommended. Some studies have shown that babies born with excess sugar in the blood due to a mother with gestational diabetes are at higher risk of becoming obese adults.
Your baby was producing extra insulin to cover the excess glucose that was coming from your body. Once the baby is born, he is still producing extra insulin, but he now only has his own glucose levels. When blood sugar is too low, it is called hypoglycemia. The nurses will test your baby’s blood sugar several times by taking a small blood sample from his heel to make sure glucose levels are normal. If glucose levels are too low, your baby may have to be fed sugar water or given an IV to bring the glucose levels up. Breastfeeding your baby immediately after birth is a great way to prevent hypoglycemia from setting in.
Babies born to mothers that had gestational diabetes while pregnant are at higher risk of having breathing problems because their lungs develop slower than the average baby. Many medical professionals will want to deliver the baby of a gestational diabetic early so that the baby isn’t too large. The doctors or midwives may do testing to make sure the lungs are viable before the induce labor early.
There is also an increased risk of a few other medical conditions when a baby is born to a mother who had gestational diabetes, especially if she did not control her glucose levels:
Polycythemia, which is an increased level of red blood cells
Hypocalcemia, which is low calcium in the blood
Stillbirth during the last two months of pregnancy
Type II diabetes later in life