Pre-Pregnancy Diabetes Increases Risk of Birth Defects

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study which showed that women who are diagnosed with diabetes before they become pregnant are 3-4 times likely to have a child with one or more birth defects than women who are not diabetic. The study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS) article reports that pregnant women with pre-gestational diabetes mellitus (pre-pregnancy diagnosis of diabetes, either type 1 or type 2 diabetes) are more likely to have a child with different types of single or multiple birth defects than a mother with no diabetes or even a mother with gestational diabetes mellitus (pregnancy-induced diabetes).

On the other hand, the study also found that some of the pregnant women with gestational diabetes were at an increased risk of having a child with birth defects.

These birth defects include brain and spine defects, kidney and gastrointestinal tract defects, heart defects, oral clefts and limb deficiencies. Birth defects linked to diabetes are more likely to occur during the first trimester, before a diagnosis is made. This suggests that these women probably had undiagnosed diabetes before pregnancy, but the symptoms did not become evident until they got pregnant.

Also, the link between gestational diabetes and various birth defects were observed chiefly in women who were obese before they became pregnant. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes and birth defects.

About the study

The National Birth Defects Prevention Study is a case-control, population-based study, the largest one about birth defects ever conducted in the US. It unifies data gathered from 9 birth defect centers in the USArkansas, California, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Utah. The information was gathered by the researchers from over 30,000 participants and will be used to identify key questions on possible causes of birth defects.

1 in 33 infants are affected by birth defects which is a leading cause of infant mortality. The risk factors and/or causes of some birth defects have already been identified. Unfortunately, the causes and/or risk factors of the majority of birth defects have not yet been discovered.

In the United States, the prevalence of gestational diabetes has been on the rise for the past few years. It affects about 7% of all pregnancies which results to about 200,000 cases yearly.

Gestational diabetes is usually resolved soon after childbirth. However, women who were diagnosed with it are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in the future.

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