When a woman has diabetes and her blood sugar is poorly managed, excess amounts of sugar are transported to the baby
Dr Kola Osibote, a gynaecologist based in Abuja on Thursday said mothers with diabetic conditions were at risk of giving birth to children with brain defects.
Osibote told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that diabetes increases pregnancy related risks and causes lots of negative effects to the mother and child.
He explained that brain, spinal cord and heart problems associated with diabetes could be identified at the early stage of pregnancy.
He said that blood sugar was the baby’s source of food which passes to the child through the placenta. "When a woman has diabetes and her blood sugar is poorly managed, excess amounts of sugar are transported to the baby.
"In this case the baby does not have diabetes and can increase the production of insulin substantially in order to use this extra sugar,” Osibote said.
The gynaecologist stressed that the existence of the abnormal cycle result in diverse complications. He said one of the complications associated with diabetic pregnant mothers is giving birth to over weight babies also known as "macrosomia”.
"Diabetic pregnant women stand the chance of been delivered of over weight babies weighing more than 3,500 grams or be born greater than the 90 percentile of the gestational age.
"This happens because the baby responds to the excess sugar which the large amount of insulin produced by the baby is converted to body fat.
"We can just say that the baby is been overfed while still in the uterus,” he said.
The expert said the delivery of such a baby could be more difficult for both the baby and the mother; adding that caesarean delivery would be required.
He observed that most obstetricians conduct an ultrasound to approximate the weight of the baby before delivery so as to determine if vaginal delivery could be attempted.
Osibote warned against delivering a large baby through the vagina when the mother is diabetic. He added that it could be life threatening and exposing the woman to the most frightening obstetrical emergencies.
He also said that such a delivery could expose the child to a shoulder dystocia (where the baby’s head delivers but the shoulders are too large to fit through the birth canal).
Osibote further said that a child could also have low blood sugar after birth, which is "neonatal hypoglycemia”. "If the baby’s pancreas is making large amounts of insulin in response to the mother’s high blood sugar, it will continue to do so for a time after delivery.
"Since the sugar supply from the mother is no longer present once the baby has been delivered, blood sugar can drop too low,” he said.
Osibote advised that it was important that babies born to women with diabetes should be monitored very closely for the first few hours of life to check their blood sugar.
He added that such babies might require more frequent breast milk or bottle feeding to maintain their blood sugar at a normal range.
The expert said that birth defects could be recognised within the first six months of pregnancy, adding that infecting the child at that stage could be preventable.
"The most common birth defects to a diabetic mother are brain, spinal and heart defects, and some of these defects can be detected during the first half of the pregnancy.
"This can be diagnosed through ultrasound checks and prenatal tests,” he said.