A new study has shown that the risk of having a baby with a birth defect is four times higher for women with diabetes than for those without the condition.
The research, published online in the journal Diabetologia, found that pregnant women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have a 7% risk of having a child that suffers from serious problems such as digestive, musculoskeletal or cardiovascular defects or urinary disease.
Problems with the nervous system, such as spina bifida, were also more common in those babies. Women without diabetes were found to have a 2% risk.
The study also revealed that women’s blood glucose levels at the time of conception strongly influence the risk of having a baby with a congenital defect, as those women who had normal glucose levels when they became pregnant had the lowest risk of birth defects.
Lead researcher Ruth Bell, from Newcastle University and Newcastle’s regional maternity survey office, said: “The risk of problems can be reduced by taking extra care to have the best possible glucose control before becoming pregnant.
“Any reduction in high glucose levels is likely to improve the chances of a healthy baby,” she added.