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Big babies, diabetes, and childhood obesity

Posted Sep 25 2009 10:35pm

Yes, it is true ... there was a  19-pound baby  born just a few days ago in Indonesia!  This baby was just shy of the world record held on to by a 23-pound baby! And, yes, you guessed, it, to a mother with gestational diabetes.  This topic brings up many related issues worth talking a bit about.

What is gestational diabetes?  Simply put,  gestational diabetes  is a high level of sugar or glucose in your blood during your pregnancy.  The reason it is important to keep track of your blood sugar levels during pregnancy is, not only for your health, but it is certainly related to your baby's short and long term well-being.  

How does gestational diabetes affect my unborn  baby?   Blood sugars not well controlled and thus remain high in both mom and baby's blood stream lead to a series of hormonal changes involving insulin which then causes the baby to store excessive fat ( since it is receiving more energy than it needs to properly grow and develop) causing a large baby or macrosomia.  These babies more to have breathing problems, difficult deliveries due to size and thus complications (such as shoulder injuries), and low blood sugar levels requiring newborn hospitalization at times.

Do larger babies eat more?    Why yes, it makes sense that they should.  Larger bodies require more energy normally to function well.  

What does this mean for the future health of my baby?  Does this mean that if I have gestational diabetes that my child will be obese?   One thing about medicine, frustratingly enough at times,  is that there are no absolutes. So, the short answer is no, not necessarily.  However, you should know that studies have shown a link between macrosomia (larger babies) and later problems with childhood overweight and obesity and  type 2 diabetes  in children, teens, and adults.  

Once I have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, does this mean that my next pregnancy will also involve diabetes?   Well, again, not necessarily.  But know that your chances increase by 2 chances out of 3 that it will reoccur.  
Therefore, it is VERY important that before, during, and after your pregnancy that you watch what you eat, taking in nutritious calories sufficient to keep both you and your baby at healthy weights at all times and ages... of course,  keep up the exercise!  Even better yet,  exercise as a family!

Picture by Pavel Kashaev, PhotoXpress -- "Pregnant mother-to-be walking, companion on bike"

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