Mothers’ High Normal Blood Sugar Levels Place Infants at Risk for Birth Problems
Pregnant women with blood sugar levels in the higher range of normal — but not high enough to be considered diabetes — are more likely than women with lower blood sugar levels to give birth to babies at risk for many of the same problems seen in babies born to women with diabetes during pregnancy, according to a study funded in large part by the National Institutes of Health.
These problems included a greater likelihood for Caesarean delivery and an abnormally large body size at birth. Infants born to women with higher blood sugar levels were also at risk for shoulder dystocia, a condition occurring during birth, in which an infant’s shoulder becomes lodged inside the mother’s body, effectively halting the birth process.
The study authors declined to make recommendations for acceptable blood sugar levels for pregnant women. The researchers were unable to identify a precise level where an elevation in blood sugar increased the risk for any of the outcomes observed in the study. Rather, the chances for the outcomes were observed to increase gradually, corresponding with increases in the women’s blood sugar levels.
It is well known that high blood sugar levels characteristic of the diabetes that occurs during pregnancy present risks for expectant mothers and the infants born to them. The current study is the first to document that higher blood sugar levels, not high enough to be considered diabetes, also convey these increased risks. Furthermore, when the researchers mathematically adjusted for other potential causes of these risks — such as older maternal age, obesity, and high blood pressure — the increased risks due to higher blood sugar levels were still present.