How does diabetes affect your child’s risk of birth defects?

Women with diabetes can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies . However, it’s important to recognize the increased risk of having diabetes during pregnancy so you can take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and your baby. Diabetes can influence your baby’s risk of birth defects so you will need to work closely with your healthcare team both before and during your pregnancy. Here is what you need to know about the link between birth defects and diabetes.

Pre-existing diabetes
If you have diabetes when you become pregnant, the risk of birth defects is usually greatest during the first few weeks of your pregnancy. Because you may not know you are pregnant at the time when your baby is most at risk of birth defects, maintaining good blood sugar control at all times is essential.

If possible, plan your pregnancy so that you can have the healthiest possible A1C at the time of conception, which will lower the risk of birth defects for your baby. If you become pregnant unexpectedly, notify your diabetes specialist right away. You may need to make significant adjustments to your management plan to achieve blood sugar control quickly.

Gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy. Although this kind of diabetes is generally less risky for developing babies, it can also cause complications and birth defects. The risk of defects related to gestational diabetes is especially high during the first trimester.

See your obstetrician at regular intervals during your pregnancy so that you can be monitored for gestational diabetes. Treating your high blood sugar levels as soon as possible will protect your baby.

Types of birth defects
Diabetes is linked to several types of birth defects. The defects that are most common when blood glucose is high early in pregnancy include:

  • Spina bifida
  • Limb defects
  • Oral Clefts
  • Heart defects

Both pre-existing diabetes and gestational diabetes are also linked to excessive fetal growth, or macrosomia. This increases the risk of birth injuries and of the need for a cesarean delivery. Babies may also be born with low blood glucose levels.

At Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center, our Birthing Center in Thousand Oaks is committed to ensuring that every new mother has a healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Get the care you need by calling (877) 888-5746 to request a referral to one of our obstetric specialists.

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