Risk of diabetic women delivering abnormal babies quantified

They have a seven per cent chance of having babies with birth defects

By Sonal Matharu
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Though it is known that women with diabetes are more likely to have babies with birth abnormalities, the risk has never been quantified. Now a study carried out by UK-based Newcastle University shows that women with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes have a seven per cent chance of having babies with birth defects, as compared to an average of around two per cent chance in women without diabetes.

The global prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is increasing, particularly in younger ages, resulting in an increasing proportion of pregnancies getting complicated by diabetes, notes the study published in the journal, Diabetologia. This is also one of the largest cohort studies to date, including 120 cases of major non-chromosomal anomaly in women with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and the only study to include detailed clinical information.

The authors followed pregnancy outcomes of 401,149 women from north England between 1996 and 2008, out of whom 1,677 women were diabetic. It found that as many as one in 13 deliveries of women with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes involves a birth defect. The blood glucose level around the time of conception is the key factor predicting the risk of birth defect. This study associates pre-existing diabetes with a wide range of non-chromosomal defects affecting most major organ systems. Cardiovascular defects were the most common.

How to minimise risk

“This trend is true globally. In Indian population, diabetic women are at three times higher risk of having babies with birth defects. Diabetes leads to complications and it is very important for diabetic women who are planning a baby to keep their blood sugar in control before they conceive. We advice women to be more careful, especially if they have a family history of diabetes,” said Suneeta Mittal, head of gynaecology department of All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. She has handled several such cases.

These risks to the baby can be averted if the women maintain their glucose levels before they conceive. Awareness of the need for preparation for pregnancy should be incorporated into the routine care of young women with diabetes, write the authors. “The good news is that, with expert help before and during pregnancy, most women with diabetes will have a healthy baby. The risk of problems can be reduced by taking extra care to have optimum glucose control before becoming pregnant. Any reduction in high glucose levels is likely to improve the chances of a healthy baby,” said Ruth Bell, the lead author of the study from Newcastle University.


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