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Infant of diabetic mother

Contents of this page:

Alternative Names   


Definition    Return to top

An infant of a diabetic mother is a baby born to a mother who has diabetes. The phrase specifically refers to a baby who is born to a mother who had persistently high blood sugar (glucose) levels during pregnancy.

Causes    Return to top

High blood sugar levels in pregnant women often have specific effects on their infants. Infants born to mothers who have diabetes are generally larger than other babies. They may have large organs, particularly the liver, adrenal glands, and heart.

These infants may have a hypoglycemic episode (low blood sugar) shortly after birth because of the increased insulin in the baby. Insulin is a substance that moves glucose from the blood into body tissues. This requires close monitoring of blood sugar levels in the infant.

Overall, there is an increased chance that mothers with poorly controlled diabetes will have a miscarriage or stillborn child. If the mother was diagnosed with diabetes before the pregnancy, her infant also has an increased risk of having birth defects if her disease is not well controlled.

Symptoms    Return to top

The infant is usually large for gestational age. Other symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

An ultrasound performed on the mother in the last few months of pregnancy shows a large for gestational age baby.

After birth, tests may show that the infant has low blood sugar and low blood calcium. An echocardiogram may show an abnormally large heart, which can lead to heart failure.

Treatment    Return to top

All infants born to mothers with diabetes should be tested for low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), even if they have no symptoms.

If an infant had one episode of low blood sugar, tests to check blood sugars will be done over several days. This will continue until the infant's blood sugar remains stable with normal feedings.

Early feeding may prevent low blood sugar in mild cases. Persistent low blood sugar is treated with glucose given through a vein. Rarely, medications to treat other effects of diabetes on the infant are needed.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Better control of diabetes and early recognition of gestational diabetes has decreased the number and severity of problems in infants born to mothers with diabetes. Usually, an infant's symptoms go away within a few weeks. However, an enlarged heart may take several months to get better.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

If you are pregnant and receiving routine prenatal care, routine testing will show if you develop gestational diabetes.

If you are pregnant and have diabetes that is difficult to controll, call your doctor immediately.

If you are pregnant and not receiving prenatal care, make an appointment with your heatlh care provider or call the State Board of Health for instructions on how to obtain state-assisted prenatal care.

Prevention    Return to top

Prevention of the complications associated with an infant of a diabetic mother requires supportive care of the mother throughout the pregnancy. Good control of blood sugars and and early recognition of gestational diabetes can prevent many of the problems associated with this condition.

Careful monitoring of the infant in the first 24 hours following birth may prevent complications due to low blood sugar.

Update Date: 10/15/2007

Updated by: Deirdre O’Reilly, MD, MPH, Neonatologist, Division of Newborn Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston and Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. Review Provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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