Hypoglycemia can be described as a condition whereby blood glucose levels are too low. In human beings, glucose is the main source of energy for both the brain and body. Babies can have low blood sugar levels at birth for several reasons.
Hypoglycemia in infants can cause them to have feeding and breathing difficulties, it can cause them to be shaky and may have a blue tint to their skin. Hypoglycemia is the medical term used to describe low blood sugar.
In newborns, hypoglycemia mostly occurs immediately after birth. In most cases, hypoglycemia in babies corrects itself once the newborn starts to feed regularly. Most cases of hypoglycemia are detected while the baby is still in the hospital before they are discharged.
Newborns with hypoglycemia are not sent home until their blood sugar level stabilizes. In some cases, hypoglycemia may not resolve easily and may also come back. Hypoglycemia that occurs within the first 48 hours of the baby being born is usually a sign of an underlying medical condition.
In newborns, hypoglycemia is very much treatable. However, if not treated as soon as possible hypoglycemia in newborns can cause lasting damage. Once the family or caregiver notices the symptoms of hypoglycemia, they should act very fast.
Once the symptoms have been reported, the doctor may recommend more regular feeding, sugar gel, or supplementing the mother’s milk with formula.
Hospitals and health centers should test the blood sugar levels of babies who are at risk of hypoglycemia. Infants should be tested at birth and the next tests should be done at regular intervals.
For a newborn to be diagnosed with hypoglycemia, their blood sugar level should be below 47 milligrams per deciliter. If an infant has hypoglycemia, the caregiver or parent may notice:
Hypoglycemia could worsen if the blood sugar levels continue to decrease or remain low for 3 days or more.
A newborn may develop hypoglycemia for several reasons. These include:
While in the uterus, the fetus receives nutrients from the placenta through the umbilical cord. Once the baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. This stops the supply of nutrients to the baby. It is during this period that transitional hypoglycemia occurs.
Transitional hypoglycemia does not need treatment because it corrects itself once the baby starts feeding. However, in some babies, this drop in blood sugar is too large and may cause dangerously low blood glucose that could be fatal.
These medical conditions include:
Studies also show that in preterm infants, hypoglycemia can be prevented by delaying the clamping of the cord.
Babies need blood sugar which is mostly used by the brain. Unborn babies receive blood glucose from their mothers through the placenta. After birth, the newborn obtains blood sugar from the mother through breastmilk or baby formula.
Levels of blood sugar may drop for several reasons including:
Hypoglycemia in babies occurs when the blood sugar level is lower than the range considered normal for their age. Hypoglycemia is not very common in newborns. Babies with certain risk factors are more likely to develop hypoglycemia. These risk factors include:
Several babies have hypoglycemia immediately after birth. If a baby develops hypoglycemia. it is important to let the doctor know so that they can keep an eye on the blood glucose level of the baby to see if it stabilizes.
Treatment is not necessary in cases where hypoglycemia goes away on its own. If a baby develops hypoglycemia days, weeks, or months after being born, the parent or guardian should call the doctor right away.
In response, the doctor might advise the mother to give the baby breastmilk, a mixture of glucose and water or formula. Doctors may also recommend the mother to visit a healthcare center to have a blood glucose test done.
Hypoglycemia in newborns presents symptoms that could be easily mistaken for other conditions. It is therefore very important to get the help of a professional healthcare provider. Mothers can easily reduce the risk of their babies developing hypoglycemia by feeding them immediately after birth, providing ongoing and on-demand feeding. This helps to ensure the newborn gets enough nutrition. For nursing mothers, feeding frequently can also help.
Babies with the following characteristics are likely to develop hypoglycemia;
It is important to keep an eye on the blood sugar levels of babies at risk for hypoglycemia. If the blood sugar level of an infant goes below 40 mg per deciliter within their first 4 hours of being born, the healthcare provider should recommend increasing the interval of feeding to increase blood glucose.
Blood glucose can be raised with breast milk. If breast milk is not available, donor breast milk can be used. Donor milk is breast milk obtained from another person who is not the birthing mother.
If there are problems with the supply of breast milk, doctors may suggest supplementing with formula. However, feeding the baby with formula may affect lactation later. Currently, doctors recommend starting with oral sugar to increase the blood sugar level of newborns because unlike formula, it does not affect lactation.
Severe hypoglycemia or hypoglycemia that does not go improve with oral sugar can be treated by putting the infant of IV glucose. Newborns with severe hypoglycemia should be put in neonatal intensive care unit where they can be easily and effectively monitored.
Hypoglycemia however remains to be a severe condition that if left untreated can have serious implications. Complications that may result from hypoglycemia may include:
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