Monitoring Glucose Levels In Early Pregnancy May Prevent Infant Heart Disease

Monitoring glucose levels in early pregnancy may help prevent congenital heart defects in babies.

New research from Stanford University warns pregnant women to watch their blood sugar in early pregnancy, as they’ve found that higher levels carry a greater risk of heart disease in their newborn babies.

According to new information from Stanford University, pregnant women who have higher blood sugar levels in pregnancy, regardless of a diabetes or hypoglycemia diagnosis, face a greater chance of their newly born baby having congenital heart disease, and researchers recommend watching glucose levels in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Typically, a ‘glucose tolerance’ test is given in the early third trimester, particularly to look at whether a woman is at risk for gestational diabetes. But according to Dr. James Priest, an assistant professor of pediatric cardiology at Stanford University, and the study’s senior author, the risk for congenital heart disease can also be looked at by monitoring glucose levels in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Related: Recent Findings Say Sugar Intake May Contribute to Infertility and Pregnancy Problems

The study looked at 19,107 records of mother and baby pairs, and found that the risk of having a baby with a heart defect was eight percent higher with each 10 milligrams per deciliter increase in blood glucose levels during the mothers’ first trimester. This is when the fetal heart is forming, and the study suggested that higher plasma glucose levels at this time could be directly correlated with increased congenital heart disease in the baby.

The study did not look at samples from women who developed gestational diabetes, or who had diabetes, as it’s generally well-known that pregnant women with diabetes have higher risks of congenital heart defects in their babies than do non-diabetic pregnant women. But this study showed that regardless of a gestational diabetes diagnosis, there is an elevated risk of heart disease in the baby based on blood sugar levels in the first trimester.

Dr. Priest says that as compared to the typical glucose tolerance test in the third trimester, a glucose level done in the first trimester when the fetal heart is developing could improve outcomes for babies as mothers would be able to receive specialized care to ensure balanced blood sugar levels.

Related: Lack of Sleep Linked to Gestational Diabetes

The researchers want to follow-up with a prospective study that again follows a large group of women to see if their conclusions are confirmed. If so, Dr. Priest believes it may be helpful to measure blood glucose levels in early pregnancy as well.

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