Research

Higher blood sugar in early pregnancy bad for baby’s heart

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The babies of mothers, who do not have diabetes, are equally at risk of developing a congenital heart defect if they have higher blood sugar early in pregnancy, finds a study.

“Most women who have a child with congenital heart disease are not diabetic,” says James Priest, senior author of the study. “We found that in women who don’t already have diabetes or develop diabetes during pregnancy, we can still measure risk for having a child with congenital heart disease by looking at their glucose values during the first trimester of pregnancy,” he adds.

The study, led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, is the first one to examine a link between nondiabetic mothers’ blood sugar levels and babies’ heart defect risk in the earliest part of pregnancy when the fetal heart is forming.

The research team studied medical records from 19,107 pairs of mothers and their babies born between 2009 and 2015.

After excluding women who had diabetes before pregnancy or who developed it during pregnancy, the results showed that the risk of giving birth to a child with a congenital heart defect was elevated by 8 per cent for every increase of 10 milligrams per deciliter in blood glucose levels in the early stages of pregnancy.

The study was published recently online in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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