In the United States, up to 2% of pregnant women have type 1 or type 2 diabetes before becoming pregnant. We know that up to 9% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes ( diabetes that occurs for the first time during pregnancy). However, these numbers have increased by 40% – 50% since 2000.

Risk to mother and baby due to diabetes

Women who intend to become pregnant should understand the importance of healthy blood sugar levels for their own health and their child’s health. For example, for women with diabetes, preventing high blood sugar levels around the time of conception decreases the baby’s risk for birth defects, stillbirth, and preterm birth. In addition, with any type of diabetes, high blood sugar levels during pregnancy increase risk for Caesarean section. A mother’s high blood sugar also raises the newborn’s risk for developing obesity or type 2 diabetes later in life.

Diabetes, pregnancy, and serious mental illness

In a new study from Denmark, researchers looked at the relationship between diabetes in mothers and mental illness in their children. This study included almost 2.5 million births from 1978 to 2016, including about 23,000 mothers with type 1 diabetes, 7,000 with type 2 diabetes, and 26,000 with gestational diabetes. Children whose mother had type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or developed gestational diabetes are 15% more likely to be diagnosed with a mental condition later in life than children born to mothers who did not have diabetes at delivery. This includes a 55% higher risk for schizophrenia and a 17% higher risk for behavioral disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Diabetes during pregnancy also raises the child’s risk for anxiety disorders and for intellectual and developmental disabilities.

These findings show the importance of supporting women with diabetes planning pregnancy to achieve good control of their blood sugar levels. Also, this shows the value of working to prevent other women from developing gestational diabetes.


Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash