Study: Diabetes, Birth Defects Linked
Researchers Say Women With Diabetes More Likely to Have Babies With Birth Defects
Role of High Blood Sugar
Exactly why pre-pregnancy diabetes boosted birth defects risk so much isn't
known. But experts say that high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) plays a role.
For instance, in animal studies cited by the researchers, a mother's high
glucose (blood sugar) has been found to lead to the same in the embryo, causing
biochemical abnormalities that increase oxidative stress and could lead to
incomplete closing of the neural tube, in turn causing such neural tube defects
as spina bifida.
"The new research confirms some early studies," says Janis Biermann,
a spokeswoman for the March of Dimes who reviewed the study for WebMD. But the
research also goes beyond that earlier research, she says, by studying a much
larger group and by going into more detail about a variety of birth
Women should take the new research as a call to take better care of
themselves, Biermann says, to do what they can to reduce the risks.
Women shouldn't think birth defects are inevitable if they have diabetes
before getting pregnant, she says. "Just because there is an increased risk
of a baby having a birth defect if a woman has preconception diabetes doesn't
mean it is going to happen. It just means there is a greater chance than if a
woman doesn't have it."
Women who are already diagnosed with diabetes who hope to get pregnant can
take crucial steps to beat the odds, she says. "It's important to take care
of yourself, exercise, be at an optimal weight, plan your pregnancy, and make
sure the diabetes is well controlled before you get pregnant."
Once you are pregnant, she tells women with diabetes, follow the same
healthy habits and go for regular prenatal care. Those with diabetes, she says,
also need to keep their regular appointments with their diabetes
About 1.85 million U.S. women of childbearing age have diabetes, the March
of Dimes estimates.
The study is published in the American Journal of Obstetrics &