Mother's Blood Sugar Threatens Fetus
'Normal' Blood Sugar Level May Mean Gestational Diabetes
June 22, 2007 (Chicago) -- Blood sugar levels previously thought normal for
pregnant women may signal problems for their babies, an international study
Doctors already know that gestational diabetes in a mother can mean big
problems for her newborn baby. Some 4% of pregnant women develop this
condition, in which women who didn't have diabetes previously have their blood
sugar levels soar. It usually goes away after pregnancy but has a two-in-three
chance of retuning in subsequent pregnancies.
Babies born to women with gestational diabetes have to struggle with too
much sugar crossing the placenta into their blood. The extra energy makes them
grow to a large size -- often forcing a C-section to prevent birth injury.
And all the insulin they're forced to produce may give the babies low blood
sugar at birth or cause breathing problems at birth. It may even predispose
them to develop obesity in childhood and type 2 diabetes later in life.
Now it looks as though these problems occur even in women who don't have
frank gestational diabetes, says Boyd E. Metzger, MD, of Northwestern
University, Chicago. Metzger chaired a seven-year, international study that
tracked 23,325 pregnancies in nine nations. None of these women had gestational
"There has been debate about whether adverse pregnancy outcomes are
really related to mothers' blood sugar. There has been a holding back on
considering this a problem," Metzger said at a news conference. "These
data show there are clear relationships between blood sugar and outcome in
women who could not be said to have diabetes in the traditional sense."
Metzger tells WebMD that the vast data collected in the Hyperglycemia and
Adverse Pregnancy Outcome (HAPO) study are still being analyzed. He's confident
that the data will lead to a set of international recommendations for maternal
blood sugar testing.
Metzger is also confident that medical associations are likely to change
their advice to women about what level of blood sugar is considered safe during
pregnancy. But he and his colleagues are not yet ready to say what that level
"One of the strong messages to deliver is there is value to pregnant
women in having their glucose levels tested and analyzed," he said.
Metzger and colleagues discussed the study in a symposium held at the
American Diabetes Association's 67th Annual Scientific Sessions, held June
22-26 in Chicago.