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What is Neonatal Hypoglycemia? Know causes, symptoms, preventive measures and treatment

Neonatal hypoglycemia presents a significant concern for infants born to diabetic mothers, requiring vigilance, early detection, and appropriate management.

Kristina Das Edited By: Kristina Das @ New Delhi Published on: November 29, 2023 17:03 IST
Neonatal Hypoglycemia
Image Source : FREEPIK Know the causes, symptoms, preventive measures and treatment of Neonatal Hypoglycemia.

Neonatal hypoglycemia, a condition marked by low blood sugar levels in newborns, poses a significant concern, especially in infants born to mothers with diabetes. As blood sugar is crucial for a baby's energy and brain development, understanding and addressing this issue become paramount in ensuring the well-being of these vulnerable infants.

The impact of maternal diabetes

Babies born to mothers with diabetes, whether gestational or pre-existing, are at an increased risk of developing neonatal hypoglycemia, according to  Dr Sakshi Goel, Senior Consultant, MBBS, MS Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital. Diabetes can affect the production of insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar, in both the mother and the developing fetus. As a result, infants may experience difficulties in maintaining stable blood glucose levels shortly after birth.

Causes and Risk Factors

Neonatal hypoglycemia can occur due to various factors, such as inadequate glycogen stores, inefficient glucose production, or increased glucose utilization by the baby's rapidly growing body. Babies born to diabetic mothers are particularly susceptible due to the higher levels of insulin circulating in their bodies in response to the mother's elevated blood sugar. 

Premature birth, large birth weight (macrosomia), and maternal hyperglycemia during pregnancy further amplify the risk. Additionally, certain medications used to manage diabetes may cross the placenta and influence the baby's blood sugar regulation.

Symptoms and Detection

Recognizing the symptoms of neonatal hypoglycemia is crucial for early intervention. Infants at risk may exhibit jitteriness, poor feeding, lethargy, irritability, or even seizures. Monitoring blood glucose levels in high-risk newborns, especially during the first few hours after birth, is essential for timely detection and management.

Management and Treatment 

The management of neonatal hypoglycemia often involves carefully monitoring blood glucose levels and providing the baby with supplemental feeds or intravenous glucose if needed. Breastfeeding is encouraged, but in some cases, formula feeds or intravenous glucose may be necessary to stabilize blood sugar levels. 

The medical team plays a crucial role in assessing and managing neonatal hypoglycemia, tailoring interventions to the specific needs of each infant. Continuous glucose monitoring and close observation during the initial days are standard practices to ensure the baby's health.

Long Term Implication

While prompt care can alleviate newborn hypoglycemia, there is growing concern about potential long-term consequences. According to research, infants who have hypoglycemia are more likely to have developmental delays, cognitive problems, and behavioural disorders. As a result, continued follow-up and developmental examinations are required for these newborns in order to address any emergent issues as soon as possible.

Preventive Measures

Managing maternal diabetes during pregnancy is crucial in preventing neonatal hypoglycemia. Regular prenatal care, close monitoring of blood sugar levels, and adherence to medical recommendations can significantly reduce the risk for both mother and baby. Healthcare providers may adjust medication regimens, recommend lifestyle modifications, and closely monitor fetal development to optimize outcomes.

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