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Screening for diabetes during pregnancy could save the life of an unborn child.

Diabetes is a condition where the body loses the ability to control blood sugar, or glucose, levels.  There are three types of diabetes including:

  • Gestational diabetes mellitus: This form of diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels rise during pregnancy and remain elevated.  Other symptoms of diabetes may occur during pregnancy, although mom may not have previously been diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Diabetes symptoms that result from an inability of the body to use or synthesize insulin properly is called Type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 1 diabetes: Considered an autoimmune disease, Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed during childhood or young adulthood when the body attacks important insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, causing diabetes.

In a study published in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK compared the prenatal care and symptoms of 273 women who suffered a stillbirth with 733 women whose pregnancies resulted in live birth.  Data was collected from 41 English maternity units.

During early pregnancy, hormones manufactured in the placenta caused increased insulin production in mom, along with a drop in glucose levels.  This can result in a pregnant woman suffering low blood sugar.  As pregnancy progresses, the ongoing production of high levels of hormones can lead to insulin resistance, causing gestational diabetes in mom.

Mothers who are diabetic, or suffer gestational diabetes are at risk along with their babies.  Children of women with untreated diabetes may grow significantly larger, leaving them at higher risk for birth injury.  These babies may also suffer birth defects, and other poor outcomes, including stillbirth.

The aim of the UK study was to evaluate the impact of appropriate screening and treatment of gestational diabetes on the risk of stillbirth.  Researchers found that women who developed symptoms of gestational diabetes but were not diagnosed or treated by their physician were at four-times higher risk of stillbirth than women whose diabetic symptoms were recognized and treated.

Study lead Dr. Tomasina Stacey said, “There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that women with gestational diabetes have no increase in stillbirth risk if national guidelines are followed for screening, diagnosis and management. The bad news is that the guidelines are not always followed and some women therefore experience avoidably higher risk.”

Good prenatal care helps mom stay healthy and gives the baby a good start in life.  If medical care left you or your baby injured—speak with a knowledgeable injury attorney about your circumstances.

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