Does Diabetes During Pregnancy Affect the Infant’s Brain Development?

download (73)Can Gestational diabetes, the kind associated with pregnancy, hold back the development of a child’s brain? Scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia cautiously speculate this could be the case. In May of 2016, the medical journal Pediatrics reported on a review of fourteen studies looking at brain development in children aged 12 and under. Unfortunately, the studies used different tests of brain function, so the results were not the same. Here’s how it broke down…

  • two studies found the children born from a Gestational diabetes pregnancy, did more poorly on tests than children born as the result of a healthy pregnancy.
  • ten studies looked at children of mothers with prepregnancy diabetes and Gestational diabetes. Six of the studies found the children from a diabetes pregnancy scored lower on tests of intellectual development than children of a healthy pregnancy.

From the above results, it was concluded the mother’s pregnancy might be related to poor intellectual development in their baby. They recommend more studies before we can be sure.

Regardless of the decision finally reached regarding Gestational diabetes and intellectual development, there are other good reasons for preventing or controlling the condition. More than half of the women diagnosed with diabetes during their pregnancy will develop Type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years.

High blood sugar levels in the pregnant mother crosses the placenta into their baby. Sugar is turned into fat in the unborn child just as it is in adults. Infants born to mothers diagnosed with Gestational diabetes can often be overweight. An overweight baby can result in the need for a Cesarean operation, or cause the shoulder to fracture during a vaginal birth. Overweight babies often become obese children and adults, raising their chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.

The following factors put a woman at high risk of developing Gestational diabetes…

  • a family history of Type 2 diabetes,
  • a personal history of delivering a baby 9 pounds or over,
  • being overweight or obese before and during pregnancy,
  • smoking,
  • high blood sugar readings,
  • high blood cholesterol levels,
  • high blood pressure,
  • eating a poor diet,
  • not enough physical activity.

Family and personal health history cannot be changed, but they alert us for the need to take precautions…

  • normalize weight. If your weight is healthy, keep it that way.
  • do not smoke. If you already do, then see your doctor or consult the CDC’s website for tips.
  • eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans.
  • have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar checked on a regular basis during your pregnancy.
  • physical activity helps with all the above. Find an activity that doesn’t seem like a chore and keep it up.

Although managing your disease can be very challenging, Type 2 diabetes is not a condition you must just live with. You can make simple changes to your daily routine and lower both your weight and your blood sugar levels. Hang in there, the longer you do it, the easier it gets.