Hyperglycemia, which means high blood sugar, is not the same as diabetes. Diabetes can be caused by hyperglycemia, but hyperglycemia on its own is not the same thing. It is essentially excessive glucose in the blood sugar. If you are a pregnant woman with hyperglycemia, you might be confused about the effects it will have on your baby. Countless studies exist outlining the negative effects of full-blown diabetes on fetuses, infants and children, and in many cases the results are outright frightening. One of the more common results is high birth weight. Since diabetes causes excess glucose in the blood, that glucose travels through the bloodstream into the placenta, and is then stored in the baby’s body as fat. Therefore, babies born to diabetic mothers tend to be large and difficult to deliver, which can cause complications.

However, since hyperglycemia is not technically the same condition as diabetes, should future mothers affected by it worry about such complications? Unfortunately, research shows that women with high blood glucose levels that were still lower than those associated with diabetes still gave birth to children of higher than average birth weight. This means that if you have hyperglycemia as a pregnant woman, your child is at risk of a high birth rate. Since hyperglycemia is not as bad as diabetes in many cases, these results may seem surprising. In addition to higher than average birth weights, babies born to mothers with hyperglycemia also showed increased cord-blood serum C-peptide levels, which is a condition common in those born to mothers with diabetes. It basically shows that the baby also had high levels of glucose in its system.

Maternal hyperglycemia that is less severe than the high blood sugar associated with diabetes mellitus can still cause adverse pregnancy outcomes. The most significant adverse outcome in pregnancies of women both with hyperglycemia and diabetes is macrosomia, or high birth weight. Although hyperglycemia is not a condition that can simply be cured with medication, treatment is similar to that of diabetes, and it involves monitoring the blood sugar regularly and keeping it at an even, normal level. If you have hyperglycemia and are worried about your baby’s birth weight, discuss the option of a cesarean section with your health care provider. Knowing in advance that you’ll need one can help you prepare mentally, and will take away the stress of changing birth plans at the last minute.

Source: The HAPO Study Cooperative Research Group: Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes. The New England Journal of Medicine May 2008