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Posted 02 November 2009

Increased heart risk for babies of diabetic mums to be

High blood sugars in early pregnancy may affect the development of a baby’s heart while still in the womb, according to new research. The findings by researchers from University College Dublin published in Diabetes Care, the official journal of the American Diabetes Association, suggest that women with type 1 diabetes should avoid pregnancy until their sugar levels are under control.

The research group in obstetrics and gynaecology found that biomarkers of heart dysfunction (troponin T and BNP) were higher in developing babies of pregnant mothers with type 1 diabetes. These differences could explain why infants of type 1 diabetic pregnancy are more susceptible cardiovascular problems in later life.

“Our findings help us understand the effect high sugars have on fetal heart development,” says Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe from the UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the National Maternity Hospital, the study’s senior author. “It offers further insight into the causes of increased risk of cardiovascular disease in later life among infants born to mums with type 1 diabetes.”

Approximately 400 (of 75,065) children born in Ireland in 2008 were likely to have been born to mothers with type 1 diabetes.

The study, funded by the Health Research Board of Ireland, compared groups of children born to mothers with type 1 diabetes to children born to mothers with no evidence of impaired glucose tolerance. According to Professor McAuliffe, the majority of the babies born to mothers with diabetes in the study were clinically well, but suggested the heart changes could also have an impact in the longer term.

Type 1 diabetes develops when there is a severe lack of insulin in the body. Sufferers are thought to have possible susceptible genes which may exposes them to, as yet, unidentified environmental triggers leading to the condition. It normally presents before the age of 40 and is treated with daily injections of insulin to control blood sugar levels.

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