Hypoglycemia in Newborns due to Gestational Diabetes
Metabolic Health
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Gestational Diabetes and Hypoglycemia in Newborns

Can Gestational Diabetes Cause Hypoglycemia in Newborns?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes common among pregnant women. Similar to type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your body cells use glucose. It causes significantly higher blood sugar levels in an expecting mother, which can be harmful to both the mother and the baby. If the mother doesn’t exercise, take a healthy diet, or take timely medicines prescribed by the doctor during this period, there can be a high risk of her child getting hypoglycemia. If you’re an expecting mother diagnosed with diabetes, this article is especially for you. Make sure you read it entirely till the end to learn everything about hypoglycemia in newborns. Also know about signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus.

Hypoglycemia in Newborn

Gestational diabetes has emerged as one of the most common pregnancy complications that affect both the neonate and the mother. It often happens when diabetes goes undiagnosed during pregnancy or when gestational diabetes is not managed by pregnant women. It leads to hypoglycemia in infants. In medical terms, it develops due to glucose (sugar) passing through the placenta, elevating the glucose or sugar levels in the fetus and eventually enhancing insulin secretion. Hypoglycemia in newborn children then results from hyperinsulinism, leading to adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. 

What is Hypoglycemia in a Newborn Baby?

Hypoglycemia in a newborn refers to the condition wherein the blood sugar levels in the baby are too low. It can happen for various reasons like poor nutrition, congenital disabilities, hyperinsulinism, inadequate oxygen supply, etc. Glucose is often regarded as the fuel of the brain and the body, and when its levels dip down the standard requirements, hypoglycemia occurs. It can give rise to various problems like breathing problems, shakiness, a blue tint to the skin, feeding problems, and more.  

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What Causes Hypoglycemia in a Newborn Baby?

Hypoglycemia in newborm can be caused due to various reasons. Some of the common reasons are:

  • The incompatible blood type of the mother and the infant
  • Liver disease
  • Poor nutrition for the mother throughout the pregnancy period
  • Congenital disabilities
  • Increased insulin in the baby’s body due to a pancreas tumor and other reasons
  • Infections
  • Birth asphyxia
  • Hormonal deficiencies 
  • Congenital metabolic diseases

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia in a Newborn Baby

Timely diagnosis and treatment of Hypoglycemia in newborn can go a long way in ensuring a healthy life for the newborn. Although infants with lower blood sugar levels may not always show symptoms, nurses in the hospital keep checking the newborn’s blood sugar levels if he displays the following symptoms:

  • Loos or floppy muscles
  • Bluish-color skin
  • Poor feeding or vomiting
  • Tremors, sweating, shakiness, or seizures
  • Breathing problems like grunting sounds or rapid breathing
  • Irritability
  • Problems keeping the body warm, and more

Which Newborns are at Risk for Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia in neonates is a rapidly growing problem. But luckily, not all neonates are subject to it. According to various studies and research, it is found that infants in the following categories are more vulnerable to hypoglycemia. 

  • Infants born under significant stress
  • Born to mothers that were on medicines like terbutaline
  • Small or large for gestational age
  • Preterm babies, especially the ones with lower than usual weight
  • Born to mothers with diabetes

How is Neonatal Hypoglycemia Diagnosed?

Hypoglycemia in newborn can be diagnosed with a serum glucose test. In this test, a heel stick is used to measure the blood test in the infant. It is considered a less invasive and easy diagnosis test wherein the blood is drawn from the foot’s heel. If the blood sugar comes out low in the report, the nurse or any other healthcare provider will keep checking it until it reaches normal levels for 12 to 24 hours. If the child is also diagnosed with other metabolic disorders, doctors may have to conduct additional tests to determine the infant’s blood sugar levels. 

How is Hypoglycemia in Newborns Treated?

Low blood sugar in newborns can be taken care of by proper treatment. The treatment option varies, and their selection depends mainly on the hypoglycemia symptoms, ability to feed the infant with a bottle, and breast milk supply. Neonates or newborns diagnosed with hypoglycemia usually require more amount of breast milk or formula feedings. Some cases may require the use of glucose solution intravenously if the baby is unable to consume food by mouth. 

The treatment for hypoglycemia in infants lasts a few hours or even days till the blood sugar levels reach the standard numbers. But babies born underweight or diagnosed with infections usually require a longer period of treatment. If the condition persists, doctors may prescribe medicines for the newborn for improvement. In very rare cases, will the doctor ask for the kid’s part of the pancreas to be removed to reduce insulin production.    

What can I do to Reduce the Risk of Hypoglycemia in my Newborn Baby?

Transitional hypoglycemia is common in some cases right after birth, but proper measures can reduce its risk, preventing it from becoming a severe problem. To eliminate the risk of hypoglycemia, the following measures should be taken:

  • Identify neonates who are at the risk of developing hypoglycemia
  • Breast the infant within the first one hour of birth
  • Check the glucose levels after 30-minutes of the first breastfeeding event
  • Provide early supplements for neonates with feeding difficulties

In some instances, there can be no way to prevent the development of hypoglycemia in neonates. Still, mothers with diabetes can reduce the risk by managing their blood sugar levels during their pregnancy. Read more about gdm treatment.

Key Points to Knut Hypoglycemia in a Newborn Baby

Hypoglycemia in newborn is a condition where the blood glucose (sugar) levels are lower than usual. A baby is generally at risk of hypoglycemia if the mother is diagnosed with diabetes. The chance of risk also exists if the baby is underweight, preterm, or diagnosed with some infection. A baby diagnosed with hypoglycemia is usually given formula or glucose mixed with water. The treatment options can be quite different for different babies, depending on their precise health condition.  


Hypoglycemia is a common metabolic disturbance that is increasingly becoming common in the neonatal stage. Screening the newborn deemed at risk of developing hypoglycemia is considered the top priority after the baby is born as part of the treatment. Although current screening and management guidelines are based on limited evidence, relying on expert’s opinions can prove to be beneficial. Now that you’re well aware of what hypoglycemia is and how it can impact a newborn, expecting mothers can take more meaningful precautionary measures to prevent the risk of hypoglycemia among neonates.


When to see a doctor?

If you notice hypoglycemia symptoms, as mentioned in the article above, you should immediately consult a doctor for prevention. Some of the signs you should look after are blue-tainted skin, shaking, floppy muscles, etc.  

What are the possible complications of hypoglycemia in a newborn baby?

Glucose (sugar) is known as a fuel for the brain and the body. If the blood glucose levels drop down the normal levels, it can harm and affect the brain’s ability to function. In severe cases, long-lasting hypoglycemia can cause seizures and even some serious brain injury.


This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.