Gestational or pregnancy-induced diabetes is a health problem for both mothers and their children. In March of 2017, the medical journal Pediatric Cardiology reported on a study on fetal heart function in Gestational diabetic mothers. Earlier studies have shown heart abnormalities during the third trimester or last three months of the pregnancy. Researchers at Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, found abnormalities during the second trimester, or middle three months.
The human heart is composed of four chambers, the left and right atria at the top of the heart, and the left and right ventricle at the bottom of the heart. In adult circulation, blue non-oxygenated blood flows from the right atrium to the right ventricle, from where it travels to the lungs. Picking up oxygen in the lungs, red blood cells turn red and make their way from the lungs to the right atrium. From there blood travels through the mitral valve and into the left ventricle. The left ventricle then pumps the blood on to the rest of the body.
In the fetus things are different. Blood picks up oxygen from the mother’s placenta and carries it to the right atrium. From the right atrium, the red blood goes directly to the left atrium and on to the left ventricle, bypassing the lungs entirely.
The investigators compared fetal hearts in mothers with Gestational diabetes at 19 to 24 weeks with fetal hearts in non-diabetic mothers…
- hearts in the diabetic group showed differences in the amount of time they stayed empty before filling and the amount of time they took to contract.
- another abnormality related to the valve between the left atrium and left ventricle could indicate an abnormal function of the left ventricle.
It is important for enough oxygenated blood to go to the brain of the fetus and all the other organs for growth and development. Checking on fetal hearts during early Gestational diabetes could one day become a clinical test to learn whether future interventions might be helpful.
For now, heart conditions linked with Gestational diabetes are one more reason to prevent or control pregnant mothers developing this form of diabetes. Ways of preventing Gestational diabetes include…
- achieving and maintaining normal weight before conception,
- eating healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables,
- gaining only the recommended amount of weight, and
- getting regular exercise
Mothers should be concerned about the possibility of developing diabetes during their pregnancy. The following put women at high risk…
- being overweight or obese,
- having a history of high blood sugar before the pregnancy,
- having a family history of Type 2 diabetes,
- leading a sedentary lifestyle, and
- being a member of the Black or Asian race.