A fetus (baby) of a mother with diabetes may be exposed to high blood sugar (glucose) levels, and high levels of other nutrients, throughout the pregnancy.
There are two forms of diabetes during pregnancy:
If diabetes is not well controlled during pregnancy, the baby is exposed to high blood sugar levels. This can affect the baby and mother during pregnancy, at the time of birth, and after birth.
Infants of diabetic mothers (IDM) are often larger than other babies, especially if diabetes is not well-controlled. This may make vaginal birth harder and may increase the risk for nerve injuries and other trauma during birth. Also, cesarean births are more likely.
An IDM is more likely to have periods of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) shortly after birth, and during first few days of life. This is because the baby has been used to getting more sugar than needed from the mother. They have a higher insulin level than needed after birth. Insulin lowers the blood sugar. It can take days for babies' insulin levels to adjust after birth.
IDMs are more likely to have:
If diabetes is not well-controlled, chances of miscarriage or stillborn child are higher.
An IDM has a higher risk of birth defects if the mother has pre-existing diabetes that is not well controlled from the very beginning.
The infant is often larger than usual for babies born after the same length of time in the mother's womb (large for gestational age). In some cases, the baby may be smaller (small for gestational age).
Other symptoms may include:
Before the baby is born:
After the baby is born:
All infants who are born to mothers with diabetes should be tested for low blood sugar, even if they have no symptoms.
Efforts are made to ensure the baby has enough glucose in the blood:
Rarely, the infant may need breathing support or medicines to treat other effects of diabetes. High bilirubin levels are treated with light therapy (phototherapy).
In most cases, an infant's symptoms go away within hours, days, or a few weeks. However, an enlarged heart may take several months to get better.
Very rarely, blood sugar may be so low as to cause brain damage.
The risk of stillbirth is higher in women with diabetes that is not well controlled. There is also an increased risk for a number of birth defects or problems:
If you are pregnant and getting regular prenatal care, routine testing will show if you develop gestational diabetes.
If you are pregnant and have diabetes that is not under control, call your provider right away.
If you are pregnant and are not receiving prenatal care, call a provider for an appointment.
Women with diabetes need special care during pregnancy to prevent problems. Controlling blood sugar can prevent many problems.
Carefully monitoring the infant in the first hours and days after birth may prevent health problems due to low blood sugar.
Reviewed By: Kimberly G. Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.