If you have diabetes in pregnancy, one of the things you’re probably wondering is what effect high blood sugar has on the baby and there are several answers to that. Let’s dig in.
Babies has the same blood sugar level as their mothers
One of the first things to remember is that babies blood sugars are going to be pretty close to whatever your blood sugar level is at any given time. If the baby is getting all this glucose from you, then right after delivery, when the cord is clamped and cut, then their blood sugars will just plummet. This is because they’re still making all this insulin trying to get their blood sugars down. And if they’re not getting the glucose anymore, then their blood sugars go way down.
This is a problem sometimes in the newborn period. So you’ll be asked to feed your baby right away. Put the baby right to the breast or how you’re going to feed them. The baby is going to need some source of glucose very shortly after delivery to keep the blood sugars from going down.
So one thing you should be thinking about when you’re managing your diabetes in pregnancy is how those high blood sugars are making the baby’s blood sugar high. In the last few weeks leading up to delivery, it is important to keep your blood sugars solid so that the baby’s blood sugar doesn’t fall right after delivery. Some babies have to get admitted to the intensive care nursery for this. Sometimes they require IV fluids and IV glucose just to manage this.
Babies grow bigger when mothers have high blood sugar
The second thing to remember is that babies grow bigger when moms have high blood sugar and the reason is that they’re getting a lot of blood sugar from you. If your sugars are high, that glucose, kind of slides downhill to the baby and when their glucose is elevated, they make a lot more insulin. Along with that insulin, they’re making all kinds of hormones that make them store fat.
So the same way that you gain weight when you eat too many calories or too many carbs, the babies are starting to put on weight too. And that in turn, leads to an increased risk of birth injuries.
The head is supposed to be the biggest part of a baby and it’s supposed to come out first so that the rest of the body just slides right out. When you have diabetes in pregnancy and if your blood sugars are high, then the baby’s blood sugar tends to also be high. They then tend to put on more weight through the shoulders and abdomen.
What this means for the birth process is that the head’s not the biggest part of the baby anymore and sometimes when the head comes out but the shoulder and abdomen don’t want to come out. This condition is called shoulder dystocia which is terrifying for your provider and for you. This is because those seconds that it takes to do the maneuvers to get the baby to come out and while that’s happening, the baby is not getting any blood flow or oxygen. So we want the head to stay the biggest part of the baby by keeping your blood sugar under good control.
Babies are more prone to birth injuries
The third effect that your high blood sugar can have on the baby is really part of the second thing. When babies are born big, they’re more likely to have birth injuries. So remember that the shoulders can have a difficult time delivering and when that happens, they can have shoulder injuries most of the time. These are temporary but sometimes they can cause lasting damage.
Babies childhood risk of metabolic disorders and obesity
The fourth effect that your high blood sugar can have on your baby involves the baby’s childhood risk of metabolic disorders and obesity. So, we’ve known for a long time that children of diabetic mothers tend to have a higher risk of obesity and developing diabetes themselves. But we’ve thought that, that’s just because of lifestyle factors. So moms that don’t eat well or take care of themselves will teach those habits to their children and then the children grow up with poor eating habits or nutritional habits.
What we know now is that, even if you feed your children perfectly after delivery, your blood sugars during the pregnancy have a lasting, sometimes lifelong effect on the baby’s metabolism. Their risk of becoming diabetic or having a problem with obesity starts in childhood.
The last complication is the most serious one. If your glucose is not well controlled in pregnancy and your baby’s growing bigger or your glucose is bouncing around, going from very high to very low, there’s an increased risk of stillbirth and that means a pregnancy loss. The closer you get to your due date and the longer your glucose is uncontrolled, the higher this risk becomes. Fortunately, stillbirth is a rare event but I don’t want this to happen to you.
So, you can see that having high blood sugar in pregnancy has an effect on your baby. Not just now but sometimes all through childhood and even lifelong. So remember, when you have diabetes in pregnancy, it’s so important for you to follow your diet, for you to have regular check-ins with your provider and keep your glucose under the best control possible.