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Undiagnosed gestational diabetes can haunt mother and child

While chubby babies are tremendously cute, a chubby newborn is a sign that the mother suffered from gestational diabetes—and that's a serious problem.

If the disease goes undetected, the consequences can be devastating.

In 2011, the American Diabetes Association gave obstetricians new screening and diagnostic guidelines in order to catch lower levels of gestational diabetes. According to the National Institute of Health, as many as 18 percent of pregnant women could be suffering from gestational diabetes. That means nearly 1 out of very 5 pregnancies poses a substantial risk to the mother and the child.

One of the immediate problems of undiagnosed gestational diabetes is an overly-large newborn. That can create significant complications during labor and delivery.

An infant that's too large can become stuck in the birth canal and suffer permanent nerve damage in one's shoulders and arms due to the use of forceps or vacuum delivery. An emergency C-section might be necessary, especially if the baby can't breathe. If the oxygen deprivation goes on too long, the baby can end up with brain damage or other complications.

The newborn may also experience a dangerous drop in his or her blood glucose levels after birth and require injections of a sugar solution to prevent more complications. A baby with low blood glucose levels may have trouble feeding, is more likely to develop jaundice, and can develop breathing problems and seizures.

That infant is also at greater risk of developing diabetes later in life, along with other problems like metabolic syndrome (a cluster of symptoms that includes high cholesterol, high blood pressure, excess abdominal fat, plus a greater risk of heart disease and stroke) and possibly even childhood leukemia.

The mother's health can be permanently compromised as well. A woman with gestational diabetes has up to a 60 percent chance of developing Type 2 diabetes within 20 years.

Prompt diagnosis of gestational diabetes can help avoid many of these complications. The mother's diet and exercise can be modified so that she's able to lower her blood sugar levels naturally. If necessary, insulin injections can be used to keep her blood sugar levels down so that they don't affect the baby's growth.

Did your obstetrician fail to recognize obvious warning signs of gestational diabetes? If so, you should discuss the long-term consequences and the possibility of a pregnancy-related injury case with an attorney.

Source: Today's Dietitian: The Magazine for Nutrition Professionals, "Gestational Diabetes Mellitus — Risk Factors and Screening," Rita Carey Rubin, MS, RD, CDE, accessed Feb. 17, 2017

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