London: Diabetic women who become pregnant are four times more likely than other women to deliver babies with birth defects, which include heart disease and spina bifida, a study reveals.
Spina bifida is a defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. A newborn may have a sac sticking out of the mid to lower back.
These findings suggest that higher blood sugar levels in the mother raise the risk. This compares with a risk of one in 50 for women without diabetes, the journal Diabetologia reported.
The study, led by researchers at Newcastle University and the Regional Maternity Survey Office, is based on 401,149 pregnancies, including 1,677 pregnancies in women with diabetes, between 1996 and 2008 in England, according to the Daily Mail.
Researcher Ruth Bell said: "The good news is that, with expert help before and during pregnancy, most women with diabetes will have a healthy baby. 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," said Bell.
Previous research shows having diabetes increases the chance of birth defects, but this is one of the first studies to quantify the effect of glucose levels on risk.