While the real symptom of gestational diabetes is elevated blood sugar, there are some serious complications that can stem from the condition. Women with poorly controlled diabetes, and their infants, have an increased risk for the following conditions during pregnancy and childbirth:
Birth defects. Women who have high glucose levels during the first six to eight weeks of pregnancy are most likely to bear children with birth defects. During that time, a baby's major organs are forming. High glucose levels can interfere with healthy development and damage the fetus's heart and spinal cord, as well as bones, kidneys, and gastrointestinal system. One study found that women who failed to attain good glucose control before getting pregnant were ten times more likely to bear a child with a birth defect.
Jaundice. For some reason, babies born to women with diabetes sometimes have this yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes. Jaundice occurs when the blood contains too much bilirubin, a by-product made when red blood cells break down. Although jaundice is usually harmless and fades after a few days, a physician must monitor the condition.
Macrosomia. This condition is also known as gigantism and large-for-gestational-age infant, but you can just think of it as Really Big Baby Syndrome. Plainly stated, women with poorly controlled glucose during pregnancy often give birth to immense infants. How big? By one definition, a baby is considered abnormally large if it weighs more than 9 or 10 pounds or tips the scales at a weight higher than 90 percent of other newborns.
Apart from the fact that a large newborn can't squeeze into the darling little outfit you knitted for him (and boys are more likely to be plus size than girls), what's the big deal? Plenty.
- The risk of stillbirth (death of a fetus in the late stages of pregnancy) increases dramatically when an infant is very heavy (10 to 12 pounds). The risk is even higher in mothers with uncontrolled diabetes.
- Fat infants often grow up to be fat adults, with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. (Interestingly, children with low birth weight appear to have a high risk for developing diabetes, too.)
- During delivery, big babies have a heightened risk for a scary situation called shoulder dystocia, in which the infant's head emerges but the shoulders get stuck. Shoulder dystocia can result in serious harm to both the infant and mother.
- Women who have large infants are twice as likely to require cesarean delivery; they also experience more birth canal injuries.
- Moms are also more likely to experience hemorrhaging and need a blood transfusion.
- Lugging around a heavyweight fetus can make the last months of pregnancy a backbreaking experience.
Continue to the next section for more complications related to gestational diabetes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.