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How Does a Mother's Low Blood Sugar Affect a Baby's Development?

by Melody Causewell

Low blood sugar -- or hypoglycemia -- may become an issue for pregnant women. While the effects of high blood sugar are often discussed at prenatal appointments or during routine pregnancy glucose screenings, low blood sugar can also have negative consequences for pregnant women and their children. It is important for mothers to understand the risks of hypoglycemia and maintain adequate sugar levels to avoid developmental issues in their babies.

Long-Term Effects

Hypoglycemic mothers have limited glucose stores. This shortage transfers to the developing infant, putting the child at risk for increased risk for cognitive deficits and later for diabetes, coronary artery disease and hypertension, according to research published in "The Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine" in 2000. Ohio researchers reported that pancreatic failure in adulthood is linked to episodes of hypoglycemia during gestation, which may occur as a result of excessive controlling of high blood sugar. While women may benefit from monitoring to ensure blood sugars are within normal range, care must be taken to avoid unhealthy decreases in sugar levels to avoid potential long-term issues for the child.

Abnormalities

Maternal hypoglycemia may cause developmental abnormalities, according to research published in the "Journal of the Anatomical Society of India" in 2002. This study found that hypoglycemia in rats caused problems including smaller size, heart abnormalities, optic nerve malformations and abnormalities in retinal development. Pregnant woman may wish to exercise caution, particularly if future research indicates these effects generalize to the human population.

Low Birth Weight and Developmental Issues

Low blood sugar in pregnant women may be related to lower birth weight, according to Oklahoma research published in "The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association" in 2011. Researchers found that women with hypoglycemia had infants with significantly lower birth weights, and identified the low blood sugar as a cause. Low birth weight can cause a number of issues with later development, according to Chinese researchers. This study, published in the academic journal "Psychiatry Research" in 2001, found that low birth-weight infants had delays meeting all developmental milestones, including teething, independent sitting and walking, bladder control and speech development and had more emotional and behavioral issues in later childhood and adolescence.

Maternal Blood Sugar and Infant Blood Sugar Issues

However, even in cases where maternal diabetes is well controlled, infants may be at risk, according to Australian research published in the "Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health" in 2000. In this study, infants born to hypoglycemic mothers had higher rates if hypoglycemia themselves. Hypoglycemia in infants may cause a number of long-term developmental effects, according to Swiss research published in the "Journal of Pediatrics" in 1999. This report indicates that low blood sugar -- particularly recurrent episodes -- contributed to both physical growth issues, such as smaller head circumference, and cognitive function deficits, such as lower scores on cognitive tests.

About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.

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