What Causes Low Blood Sugar in Newborns?

Newborn baby

Low blood sugar, also known as neonatal hypoglycemia, is a condition where a newborn’s blood sugar levels are lower than normal. It can occur for various reasons, and it is particularly important to monitor and manage because low blood sugar in newborns can have serious consequences. Common causes of neonatal hypoglycemia include:

  • Immature Liver Function: A newborn’s liver is still developing and may not be able to release stored glucose (glycogen) into the bloodstream as effectively as in older children and adults. This can result in low blood sugar levels shortly after birth.
  • Premature Birth: Premature infants are at a higher risk of developing hypoglycemia because they may have lower glycogen stores and immature liver function.
  • Inadequate Feeding: Infrequent or insufficient feeding can lead to a lack of glucose intake, causing low blood sugar. This can occur due to breastfeeding difficulties, inadequate milk supply, or a sleepy newborn who does not wake up for feedings.
  • Maternal Diabetes: Babies born to mothers with diabetes, particularly gestational diabetes, are at increased risk of neonatal hypoglycemia because they may have higher insulin levels in response to their mother’s glucose levels during pregnancy.
  • Infection: Infections in newborns can stress their bodies and lead to low blood sugar levels.
  • Congenital Conditions: Some congenital conditions, such as hyperinsulinism, a rare disorder in which the pancreas produces too much insulin, can cause persistent low blood sugar.
  • Hormonal Imbalance: Hormonal imbalances, including deficiencies in growth hormone, cortisol, or other hormones that regulate blood sugar, can contribute to neonatal hypoglycemia.
  • Polycythemia: Polycythemia, a condition in which there is an excessive number of red blood cells, can increase the demand for glucose and lead to low blood sugar.
  • Medications: Certain medications given to the mother during labor and delivery can affect the newborn’s blood sugar levels.
  • Stress or Trauma: Physical stress or trauma during birth, such as asphyxia, can affect the newborn’s body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.

It’s crucial to monitor blood sugar levels in newborns, especially if they have risk factors for hypoglycemia. Early detection and treatment of neonatal hypoglycemia are important to prevent potential complications, such as seizures or brain injury. Treatment typically involves providing glucose in the form of breastmilk or formula, and in some cases, intravenous glucose may be required. Healthcare providers will closely monitor and manage the newborn’s blood sugar levels to ensure they remain within a safe range.

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