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For Release: February 4, 2010
Contact: Pamela Williams, Office of Communications

Diabetes Alert for Women of Childbearing Age
Diabetes Linked to Birth Defects 

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is joining forces with the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to alert Oklahoma women of childbearing age about the critical link between diabetes and an increased risk of birth defects. 

“Diabetes has been linked to birth defects when the disease is not carefully controlled,” said Oklahoma Birth Defects Registry Coordinator Kay Pearson. Pearson said diabetes in women of childbearing age has doubled in the last decade, affecting 1.3 million nationwide.  It is estimated that close to 200,000 Oklahoma women of childbearing age have been found to have diabetes in the last decade. Oklahoma has 2,000 babies born each year with birth defects.

Studies have shown that the key to a healthy pregnancy for women with diabetes is keeping blood sugar in a target range, both before and during pregnancy.  Women with diabetes, especially poorly controlled diabetes, are at greater risk of giving birth to a baby with a birth defect.   Some of the defects that have been identified in children of women with diabetes are heart defects, brain and spinal cord defects, oral clefts, kidney and gastrointestinal tract defects and limb defects. It is believed that elevated blood sugar plays an important role in causing birth defects. 

“Planning ahead is the key when it comes to diabetes and preventing birth defects,” Pearson said. “There are several things diabetic women should do if planning to become pregnant, such as visiting your diabetes specialist before stopping your method of birth control to make sure your blood sugar is in the target range. Women should also maintain ideal weight, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet, along with taking a multivitamin with folic acid.”

Additional steps women can take before they become pregnant:

●Avoid alcohol, tobacco and street drugs.     
●Check with your doctor regarding medications (prescription and over-the-counter).     
●Keep hands clean by washing them often with soap and water to prevent infections.     
●Avoid chemicals at work or at home that might be harmful to a developing baby.     
●Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.     
●Make sure immunizations are up-to-date.

Once pregnant, women with diabetes should maintain strict control of their blood sugar and keep all appointments with their physician to prevent or catch problems early. Following the advice of health care providers can greatly improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

For more information about birth defects prevention, call 1-800-766-2223, or email kayp@health.ok.gov, or visit this Web site:  http://obdr.health.ok.gov. For information about having a healthy pregnancy and baby, visit www.health.ok.gov and click on “Preparing for a Lifetime.”


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