UC San Diego Experts Say Diabetes Dangers Can Lead To Birth Defects

SAN DIEGO, CA, November 12, 2010 – In light of National Diabetes Awareness Month and World Diabetes Day on Sunday, November 14, the California Teratogen Information Service (CTIS) Pregnancy Health Information Line, a non-profit based at the University of California, San Diego that aims to educate women about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding, urges women to learn more about diabetes’ potentially devastating impact on pregnancy. 

CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line researchers have compiled fact sheets on diabetes and its possible implications during pregnancy in English and Spanish on Fact sheets on some medications to treat diabetes, such as metformin, can also be found on the website.

“The good news is that diabetic women who maintain good control of blood glucose levels during pregnancy can reduce their risks greatly,” said Dr. Christina Chambers, professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego and program director of CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line. She stresses the importance for women to know whether or not they are diabetic by having regular health checkups. “Secondly, if a woman is diabetic, it is very important to plan any pregnancies so that she can have best possible glucose control in advance of becoming pregnant,” she added.

Nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes according to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP). The growing number of those affected by the disease has reached such epidemic proportions, For the month of November, President Barack Obama encouraged "all Americans, school systems, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, health care providers, and research institutions to join in activities that raise diabetes awareness and help prevent, treat, and manage the disease."

Diabetes is a condition in which the body either does not produce enough insulin or cannot use insulin properly.

“As more Americans struggle with obesity, we’re seeing type 2 diabetes on the rise. It’s crucial we raise awareness of how the disease not only impacts men and women, but also their unborn children,” said Dr. Chambers. “Diabetes can increase the risk for certain birth defects if a woman isn’t controlling her glucose levels carefully during pregnancy,” she explained.

There may be up to a 20% risk for birth defects for those women with extremely poor control of their glucose levels in the first trimester of pregnancy. Some of the associated birth defects include spinal cord (spina bifida), heart, skeletal, urinary, reproductive, and digestive system defects.

“While it’s important diabetics be armed with knowledge on how to control their glucose levels during pregnancy, it’s just as important all women be aware of gestational diabetes too,” said Dr. Chambers. Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is diagnosed during pregnancy. For most women, blood glucose levels return to normal after pregnancy. “If gestational diabetes is not controlled well enough during pregnancy, the baby does have an increased chance of being born with hypoglycemia or breathing problems,” she added.

If a woman is planning on becoming pregnant or is currently pregnant, she is encouraged to talk to her doctor about her or her family’s history of diabetes. Questions or concerns from women in California can also be directed to the CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line, at (800) 532-3749 or at Outside of California, please call the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists at (866) 626-OTIS (6847).

For more information or if you would like to schedule an interview, please contact Nicole Chavez at (619) 294-6262 or at

CTIS Pregnancy Health Information Line is the California affiliate of OTIS, a North American non-profit dedicated to providing accurate evidence-based, clinical information to patients and health care professionals about exposures during pregnancy and lactation through its toll-free hotline and website, Nearly 100,000 women seek information about birth defect prevention from OTIS and its affiliates every year.


About Us

The Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) was established in 1987 as a way of connecting world-renowned experts in the field of birth defects research to the general public. In 2013, OTIS launched MotherToBaby as its information service. Today, affiliates around the world provide the most cutting-edge and up-to-date information about medications, chemicals, herbal products, illicit drugs, alcohol, diseases and much more during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. OTIS and its information service, MotherToBaby, are suggested resources by many agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).