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Low Blood Sugar in Newborns

Blood glucose, which is also called as blood sugar, refers to the amount of glucose present in the blood. Glucose is the main source of energy for the cells of the body. Glucose is mainly synthesized from carbohydrates and the amount of glucose in blood is regulated by insulin. When the blood sugar levels are lower than normal, one is diagnosed with hypoglycemia. This condition can affect children as well as adults.

Newborns can also develop low blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar in newborns is medically referred to as neonatal hypoglycemia. In case of newborns, the body's requirements for glucose is fulfilled from lactose present in milk. Though blood sugar levels can fluctuate, especially a few hours after birth, some infants may be susceptible to hypoglycemia due to other factors. Following is a brief discussion on the causes, risk factors, symptoms and the treatment of hypoglycemia in newborns.

Low Blood Sugar in Newborns: Causes and Risk Factors
During pregnancy, the fetus is supplied with glucose and other essential nutrients through the placenta. The placenta stores some of the glucose in the form of glycogen. During the delivery, the infant's brain uses up these glycogen stores. A part of glucose is also stored in the liver, and some other parts of the body. These are used up after the baby is born. After delivery, the child gets the needed nourishment through mother's milk. In the first few days after birth, the child's immune system is strengthened with the antibodies present in the milky secretion called colostrum.

The composition of breast milk changes in the weeks that follow. While water forms a substantial part of the mature milk, other components of milk include carbohydrates, fats, proteins and other essential nutrients. Since the baby is dependent on milk for all the essential nutrients, the chances of child suffering from neonatal hypoglycemia would be high if the baby is not being breastfed well. If a child is not breastfed well, it will most likely lead to drop in blood sugar levels that might make the child irritable. The child will lose more energy from episodes of crying that follow. It is therefore, extremely important that nursing mothers find out all about the ways to breastfeed the infant properly.

Some infants may be at an increased risk of developing this condition. Women suffering from diabetes are more likely to give birth to children with low blood sugar. Intravenous administration of large amount of glucose solution during labor is another risk factor. Instances of neonatal hypoglycemia have been reported in cases wherein the newborn is small or large for gestational age.

Lack of oxygen supply right after birth, premature birth or complicated delivery may also pose risks and make the child susceptible to low blood sugar. Liver disease, congenital defects or inadequate nutrition during the gestational period can also lead to the low blood sugar levels in newborns. Exposure to intense cold can also cause blood sugar levels to dip, which is why maintaining skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child post delivery is extremely important.

Low Blood Sugar Levels in Newborns: Symptoms and Treatment
The symptoms of hypoglycemia may or may not be conspicuous. Moreover, the severity of the symptoms would depend on how low the blood glucose levels are. In severe cases, a child may exhibit symptoms such as pale skin, nausea, vomiting, irritability, restlessness, low body temperature, bluish-colored skin, breathing problems, tremors, sweating or decreased muscle tone. If a newborn is exhibiting any of these symptoms of hypoglycemia, the wise thing to do would be to consult a doctor. Blood tests and other screening tests can be conducted in order to ascertain the underlying problem.

Very low levels of blood sugar can adversely affect the nervous system, which in turn, can even lead to developmental delays. It is therefore, extremely important that steps are taken to bring the blood sugar levels within the normal range. The child must be breastfed or given formula milk soon after birth. Mild cases of hypoglycemia can be treated by feeding the child effectively. If the baby is unable to feed, then sugar solution can be administered intravenously. Maintaining skin-to-skin contact will also help. If the blood sugar levels are still low, the affected child may also be given medication so as to stabilize the blood sugar levels.

This was a brief overview on low blood sugar in newborns. If left untreated, hypoglycemia in newborns can have serious repercussions on the child's overall development. Precautionary measures must, therefore be taken to treat this condition at the earliest. Pregnant women who have been diagnosed with diabetes must take all possible precautions to keep blood sugar levels in control during the course of pregnancy. It is also essential that the fetus receives proper nutrition during pregnancy. The child must be fed properly so that the blood sugar levels stay within the normal range.

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