New research by scientists at Newcastle University and funded by charity Diabetes UK has found that the risk of having birth defects increases dramatically if the expectant mother suffers from diabetes. It revealed that the risk of defects, including congenital heart disease and spina bifida, were four times higher for diabetic women.
The study, published in the journal Diabetologia, assessed data from over 400,000 pregnancies in the North East of England between 1996 and 2008, 1,677 of which involved women with diabetes. It showed that the number of birth defects in the data increased from 19 in every 1,000 births for women without diabetes to 72 for every 1,000 births for those with diabetes.
Being unable to properly control the levels of blood sugar in the body is a major problem for diabetics, and it also poses a potentially harmful risk to pregnant mothers in terms of birth defects, miscarriage and overweight babies. Experts are worried that the rise in diabetes levels, especially type 2, is exacerbating the problems of birth defects.
Iain Framen, director of research at Diabetes UK, commented “We need to get the message out to women with diabetes that if they are considering becoming pregnant, then they should tell their diabetes healthcare team, who will make sure they are aware of planning and what next steps they should be taking.”

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