Hypoglycemia in a Newborn Baby
Hypoglycemia is when the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood is too
low. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the brain and the body. In a newborn baby,
low blood sugar can happen for many reasons. It can cause problems such as shakiness,
blue color to the skin, and breathing and feeding problems.
Hypoglycemia can be caused by conditions such as:
- Poor nutrition for the mother during pregnancy
- Making too much insulin because the mother has poorly controlled diabetes
- Incompatible blood types of mother and baby (severe hemolytic disease of the newborn)
- More insulin in the baby's blood for
other reasons, such as a tumor of the pancreas
- Birth defects
- Congenital metabolic diseases or hormone deficiencies. Some of these run in families.
- Not enough oxygen at birth (birth
- Liver disease
- Infection (certain medicines the
mother may have been taking for diabetes at the time of birth, such as sulfonylurea
medicines, can cause sepsis or other severe infections)
Babies who are more likely to have
hypoglycemia include those who are:
- Born to mothers with diabetes
- Small for gestational age or
- Preterm babies, especially those with low birth weights
- Born under significant stress
- Born to mothers treated with certain
medicines such as terbutaline
- Large for their gestational age
Signs of low blood sugar may not be
easy to see in newborn babies. The most common signs include:
- Blue color to skin and lips (cyanosis)
- Stopping breathing (apnea) or fast
- Low body temperature
- Floppy muscles (poor muscle tone)
- Not interested in feeding
- Lack of movement and energy
- Weak or high-pitched cry
The signs of hypoglycemia can seem
like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees their healthcare provider
A simple blood test for blood glucose levels can diagnose the problem.
Treatment will depend on your baby's gestational age and overall
health. Treatment includes giving the baby a fast-acting source of glucose. This may
as simple as a glucose and water mixture or formula as an early feeding. Or your baby
may need glucose given through an IV (intravenous) line. The baby's blood glucose
are checked after treatment to see if the hypoglycemia occurs again.
The brain needs blood glucose to function. Not enough glucose can harm the brain's
ability to function. Severe or long-lasting hypoglycemia may cause seizures and serious
In many cases, there may not be a way to prevent hypoglycemia in a
newborn baby. For a baby with risk factors, healthcare providers will need to watch
carefully for the signs and start treatment as soon as possible. Mothers with diabetes
should keep their blood glucose levels in a normal range during pregnancy. This may
lower the risk for their baby.
When to Call a Healthcare Provider
Call your baby’s healthcare provider right away or get immediate
medical care if you see signs of low blood sugar in your baby. Give your baby formula
a glucose and water mixture, if advised.
- Hypoglycemia is a condition in which
the level of glucose in the blood is lower than normal.
- A baby is at risk if they have a
mother with diabetes, is preterm, or is large.
- If your baby has signs of
hypoglycemia, give them formula or a glucose and water mixture.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment
is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects
- Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose
for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important
if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.