Pregnant women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of stillbirth and having babies with birth defects, researchers in London say.
Using medical records from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, researchers compared 2,359 women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who gave birth between March 2002 and February 2003 with pregnant women in the general population. Women with gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, weren't included in this study.
About 75% of the women studied had type 1 diabetes; about 25% of the women had type 2 diabetes, which is more often diagnosed in older women. Even though controlling blood sugar levels helps women with diabetes avoid complications during pregnancy, only 37% of women tested had good blood sugar control by the end of their first trimester.
Overall, pregnant women with diabetes had an increased risk of several pregnancy problems. They had more than twice the risk of delivering babies with birth defects, most commonly congenital heart disease (3.4 times increased risk) and nervous system abnormalities (2.7 times increased risk) such as neural tube defects.
Women with diabetes were also more than four times as likely to have a stillbirth and two to three times more likely to have babies who died during delivery or infancy.
What This Means to You. For women with diabetes who are considering pregnancy, these results can be frightening. But taking control of their diabetes before becoming pregnant or in the early weeks of pregnancy can help them reduce their risk of pregnancy problems. If you're thinking of becoming pregnant and have diabetes, talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar levels under control, prenatal testing for birth defects, and any supplements you should take.
Source: Mary C. M. Macintosh; Kate M. Fleming; Jaron A. Bailey; Pat Doyle; Jo Modder; Dominique Acolet; Shona Golightly; Alison Miller; British Medical Journal, July 22, 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2006