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12 Complications In Infants Born To Diabetic Mothers

Diabetes is a chronic disease whose symptoms can only be managed and not cured. Early onsets of diabetes in adults are causing an increase in cases of diabetes worldwide, which is directly leading to an increased number of pregnant women with diabetes. [1]

Children born to diabetic mothers are at increased risk of perinatal mortality and pregnancy complications, compared to children born to non-diabetic mothers. [2]

In this article, we will discuss some of the complications in infants who are born to diabetic mothers. Take a look.

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1. Respiratory distress syndrome

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in newborns born to diabetic mothers is reported in a study. Diabetes tends to disturb the underlying mechanisms of the lungs of the foetus and delay fetal lung maturation which may result in RDS. [3] Other lung problems may include transient tachypnea and persistent pulmonary hypertension. [4]


2. Perinatal asphyxia

It is a condition characterised by deprivation of oxygen to and from the foetus, just before, during or after the delivery. Many cases of perinatal asphyxia have been reported in maternal diabetic pregnancies. [5]

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3. Increased birth weight

Diabetes may increase the risk of increased birth weight in infants. High blood glucose during pregnancy causes the baby to gain weight rapidly, leading to a condition called macrosomia. The increased weight of the baby thus, cause difficulties during the delivery, leading to the death of the newborns. [6]


4. Congenital anomalies

A study has shown that infants of mothers who have existing type 1 diabetes are at increased risk of developing congenital malformations. Some of the congenital anomalies include orofacial clefts, heart diseases, limb reduction defects and spine malformations. [7]

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5. Growth and neurodevelopmental outcome

A study talks about growth and neurodevelopmental problems in infants born to mothers with diabetes. Developmental delays like cognitive, sensory and language impairment and neurosensory impairment like severe hearing loss are reported in infants of diabetic mothers. [8]


6. Neonatal hypoglycemia

A study has shown hypoglycemia or low blood glucose in infants of diabetic mothers. This is because of the efforts to control blood sugar levels before birth, the baby's blood sugar may fall drastically causing complications such as brain damage. The levels of cord blood glucose also do not identify low glucose levels in infants. [9]

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7. Malignant neoplasm

Malignant neoplasm refers to a cancerous tumour which may spread to other body parts from its point of origin. A study reports an increased risk of breast cancer among daughters who were born to a diabetic mother. [10]


8. Intellectual disability

It is a serious disability in infants which may result in lifelong disability. A study mentions that in spite of proper delivery and health care in diabetic mothers, the prevalence of intellectual disability has been constant for 20 years. Such infants have slow learning abilities and have intelligence below average. [11]

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9. Growth retardation

Diabetes may cause foetal growth retardation early in pregnancy. A study has shown that fetuses in diabetic pregnancies are on average smaller than the normal size of the foetus. The difference was observed during early pregnancy. [12]


10. Hyperbilirubinemia

It is a condition characterised by excess bilirubin in the bloodstream of the foetus. Bilirubin is an orange-yellow compound formed when red blood cells break down in vertebrates. A study says that only babies who are born with large for gestation age are at increased risk of hyperbilirubinemia. [13]

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11. Shoulder dystocia

It is a major emergency associated with pregnancy. Pre-existing maternal diabetes is the main cause of shoulder dystocia, a condition in which the baby's anterior shoulder gets stuck in the vagina, with only head out. The condition is prevalent in women who have early labour or are overweight. [14]


12. Preterm birth

Due to the rapid growth of the foetus in diabetic pregnancy, the risk of premature delivery or preterm birth is high. In a study, it was found that women with pre-existing diabetes mellitus have had spontaneous preterm birth compared to women who do not have diabetes. [15]

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Story first published: Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 14:00 [IST]