Maternal diabetes: an independent risk factor for major cardiovascular malformations with increased mortality of affected infants

Teratology. 2001 Aug;64(2):98-106. doi: 10.1002/tera.1051.


Background: Intensive medical care of women with diabetes has reduced their risks of bearing infants with congenital anomalies. To assess the preventive potential of preconceptional care, the data of a population-based study of cardiovascular malformations (CVM) were analyzed to determine the morphogenetic specificity of maternal diabetes risks, the morbidity and mortality of the infants, and maternal characteristics that might affect these risks.

Methods: The Baltimore-Washington Infant Study was a case-control study (1981-1989) that included all live born infants with confirmed CVM; control infants were a representative sample of the birth cohort. A questionnaire administered in home visits recorded parental information on social, medical, occupational, and environmental factors. For these analyses of preconceptional diabetes risks, the case group excluded chromosomal and mendelian disorders and was divided into 3 developmental categories and 12 diagnostic groups.

Results: Preconceptional maternal diabetes was strongly associated with CVM of early embryonic origin (odds ratio [OR] = 4.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.8-7.9) and with cardiomyopathy (OR = 15.1, 95% CI 5.5-41.3), but not with obstructive and shunting defects (OR = 1.4, 95% CI 0.7-3.0). There was heterogeneity within these developmental categories: among laterality defects, diabetes was associated only with cardiovisceral and atrioventricular discordance (OR = 10.0, 95% CI 3.7-27.0); among outflow tract anomalies, the risk was strongly associated with normally related great arteries (OR = 6.6, 95% CI 3.2-13.3) but not with simple transpositions; and among atrioventricular septal defects, diabetes was associated with the complete but not with the partial forms (OR = 22.8, 95% CI 7.4-70.5). The association in early CVM was strongest among infants with multisystem, predominantly VACTERL, anomalies. All-cause mortality of infants with CVM was 39% among those with diabetic mothers and 17.8% in those with nondiabetic mothers. Deceased infants of diabetic mothers were also more likely to have extracardiac anomalies (P = 0.041), to be born prematurely (P = 0.007), and to have low birth weight (P = 0.011). Multivariate analyses of maternal factors revealed no significant confounders of the diabetes associations.

Conclusions: The evidence of diabetes-induced major cardiac defects is of urgent clinical significance. The effectiveness of early preconceptional care in the prevention of congenital anomalies has been demonstrated repeatedly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Cardiovascular Abnormalities / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Abnormalities / mortality
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics / complications*
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics / drug therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors