Effects of Diabetes on the Growing Fetus
The effects of gestational diabetes in the growing fetus can be minimized by proper antenatal care and care during delivery of the baby. Some of the effects of diabetes on the fetus are
a. Congenital malformations
Congenital malformations including heart defects and defects of the respiratory system, which gives rise to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). These occurs more in babies born to diabetic mothers.
b. Intrauterine death
Intrauterine deaths are more common in the diabetic mother as compared to non-diabetic women.
c. Fetal macrosomia
In this condition, the baby is considerably larger than normal. When the blood sugar levels are high because of insulin resistance in the pregnant woman, the extra blood glucose goes through the placenta into the fetus. This results in high blood glucose levels in the growing baby which in turn stimulates the baby’s pancreas to increase production of insulin. As a result, the baby receives more energy, which is then stored as fat. This results in a large- sized baby with increased muscle mass, increased subcutaneous fat deposition and increased size of the organs (visceromegaly)
The baby, after it is born, may have hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels. This is because the baby’s pancreas has been stimulated to produce more insulin. This over production of insulin may continue for some more time even after delivery. When this happens, the blood sugar levels in the baby is carefully monitored and feeding adjusted accordingly.
An increased production of bilirubin, that causes jaundice or yellowing of the skin and the mucous membranes, is very common in babies born to diabetic mothers.
f. Risk of Type 2 diabetes
Studies have shown that the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later on in life is more in babies born to mothers who had gestational diabetes.
g. Birth injuries
Birth injuries are more common, as there might be difficulty in delivery of large sized infant.