Hypoglycemia In A Newborn: Causes, Symptoms & How To Treat It?

Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the blood sugar is abnormally low. Usually we come across adults having hypoglycemic episodes. However, it can occur in people of any age including the newborns. Hypoglycemia in newborn is more often seen in premature babies, low birth weight babies or baby born to mother having diabetes. There is less possibility of hypoglycemia in a healthy new born baby.

The condition in newborn is dangerous because it can impair brain function and in worst case can cause seizures. Treatment of hypoglycemia is individualized depending on the symptoms.

Feeding breast milk is the best option whenever possible. In some cases where glucose level is too low, glucose solution is administered intravenously.

What Causes Hypoglycemia In A Newborn?

The hormone insulin plays a vital role in balancing sugar in the blood. When this balance is disturbed, hypoglycemia occurs. Normally soon after birth, the sugar level may dip for few hours but after intake of breast milk, the level comes up. These ups and downs will make the baby hungry. Feeding breast milk to the baby will help in balancing the sugar level in blood.

However, some factors can cause too low blood sugar level in blood of newborn. They are:

  • Premature babies with low birth weight are at risk of developing hypoglycemia.
  • Small sized babies may have restricted glucose store in their body.
  • Mother suffering from diabetes during pregnancy.
  • Newborn with unstable body temperature.
  • Large sized baby for their gestational age. Most often it is associated with gestational diabetes.
  • Certain medicines taken by mother during her pregnancy can cause hypoglycemia in babies soon after birth.

Certain associated conditions can also make the newborn hypoglycemic such as:

  • Congenital birth defects.
  • Breathing problems during birth.
  • Infection
  • Hemolytic disease which occurs due to incompatibility of mother and baby’s blood.

Signs And Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia In A Newborn

The symptoms of hypoglycemia in newborn are often subtle. They are not easily noticeable. All the symptoms may not be present in each baby. The most commonly encountered symptoms are:

  • Lethargy
  • Irritable
  • Jittery feeling
  • Too sleepy
  • Blue discoloration of skin and lips
  • Cold and clammy body
  • Weak muscle tone
  • Seizures

If the blood glucose level is extremely low, seizures may develop. This is the sign of something very serious condition.

Blood glucose estimation is perfect test to detect hypoglycemia. After a pinprick on toe, blood is examined for sugar level in a laboratory. Too much low sugar in blood will confirm the diagnosis.

How To Treat Hypoglycemia In A Newborn?

The treatment for hypoglycemia may differ from one baby to another. After examining the child and evaluation of blood sugar level, the doctor may start treatment. Certain factors may be taken into consideration such as gestational age of baby, severity of condition, etc.

The first thing that he may suggest is to feed breast milk to the baby. In case if the baby is not able to latch on the breast, breast milk is expressed by mother and it is fed to the child in a bottle. Sometimes feeding tube is inserted through the nose into the stomach. Breast milk is introduced through the tube.

If blood sugar is too low, intravenous glucose solution is useful to bring sugar to normal level.