Objectives: Our aim was to determine risk factors for congenital malformations in offspring of women with hyperglycemia first detected during pregnancy (i.e., women with gestational diabetes).
Study design: A total of 3743 pregnancies complicated by gestational diabetes mellitus delivered at > 20 weeks of gestation were reviewed for the presence of congenital malformations diagnosed before hospital discharge. Anomalies were categorized as major, minor, or absent. Pregnancies with genetic syndromes and aneuploidies were excluded. In addition to maternal clinical and historic parameters, diagnostic glycemic parameters (fasting and post-glucose-challenge levels from the diagnostic glucose tolerance test, highest fasting serum glucose level, and hemoglobin A1c level before insulin therapy) were examined by logistic regression for predictive risk of major anomalies.
Results: One or more major congenital anomalies were present in 108 (2.9%) of the newborns; an additional 91 (2.4%) had only minor anomalies. None of the maternal variables were associated with the risk of minor anomalies. By contrast, parity, a history of gestational diabetes mellitus, and several glycemic parameters were associated with the risk of major anomalies. The highest fasting serum glucose level was the best independent predictor (odds ratio 1.13/10 mg/dl, 95% confidence interval 1.09 to 1.34). The fasting serum glucose level at diagnosis, a parameter that is almost uniformly available to clinicians, gave similar predictive information about the risk of major anomalies (odds ratio 1.13, 95% confidence interval 1.08 to 1.14). Stratification of women into subgroups of fasting serum glucose level at diagnosis revealed the incidence of major anomalies to be as follows: 2.1% with a fasting serum glucose level < 120 mg/dl (2973 pregnancies), 5.2% with a fasting serum glucose level of 121 to 260 mg/dl (747 pregnancies), and 30.4% with a fasting serum glucose level > 260 mg/dl (23 pregnancies).
Conclusion: In a large population of women without a diagnosis of diabetes before pregnancy, the maternal fasting serum glucose concentration at diagnosis was a useful predictor of the risk of major but not minor anomalies. The rate of major anomalies doubled with a fasting glucose level > 120 mg/dl. Thus a fasting glucose level below that of overt diabetes outside of pregnancy carries an important risk of major anomalies that must be considered in the counseling and management of these patients.