A new study conducted by British researchers has found that the blood sugar of many pregnant women with diabetes can reach such high levels that can potentially harm their own unborn child.

The Health and Social Care Information Center (HSCIC), in association with Diabetes UK, conducted a study known as the National Pregnancy in Diabetes audit that examined 2,537 pregnant diabetic women in Wales, England, and the Isle of Man.

The researchers discovered that a majority of the women have high levels of blood sugar during the early stage of their pregnancy.

Around 64 percent of participants with Type 2 diabetes and 85 percent of those with Type 1 diabetes showed blood glucose levels that were beyond the recommended threshold.

The study also found that 8 percent of the women with Type 2 diabetes and close to 12 percent of those with Type 1 diabetes had glucose levels in their blood that were higher than levels advised for those planning to get pregnant.

This is crucial because high blood sugar levels increase the risk of pregnant women to experience stillbirth or neonatal death. It also increases the likelihood for the child to be born with congenital anomalies.

Importance of Folic Acid for Pregnant Diabetic Women

The findings showed that two thirds of study participants with Type 2 diabetes and around half of those with Type 1 diabetes failed to take folic acid (vitamin B9) by the time they became pregnant.

Pregnant women are highly advised by doctors to regularly take folic acid in order to ensure that the fetus develops normally. It also significantly reduces the likelihood for the unborn child to develop tube disorders such as spina bifida.

The researchers said that it is important for diabetes teams, maternity services and general practices to coordinate their efforts in raising public awareness regarding potential issues among diabetic women.

They note that one third of babies born to diabetic mothers are already in need of specialist or intensive care.

Another finding from the National Pregnancy in Diabetes audit is that one in 10 women with Type 2 diabetes were taking drugs that could potentially harm their unborn child when they became pregnant.

The research team, however, pointed out that birth defects occur rarely.

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