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Hypoglycemia in the Newborn

Hypoglycemia in the Newborn

Hypoglycemia means low blood glucose (sugar). It's a condition in which the amount of glucose in the blood is lower than normal. During pregnancy, glucose is passed to the baby from the mother through the placenta. Some of the glucose is stored in the placenta, and later in the baby's liver, heart and muscles. These stores of glucose are important for supplying the baby's brain with energy during delivery and for nutrition after the baby is born.

Conditions Associated with Hypoglycemia in the Newborn

Many different conditions are associated with hypoglycemia in the newborn, including:

  • Poor nutrition of the mother during pregnancy
  • Inadequate feeding intake
  • Blood types of the mother and baby are not compatible
  • Birth defects, endocrine disorders and metabolic diseases present at birth
  • Poor intake of oxygen during birth (birth asphyxia)
  • Exposure to the cold (cold stress)
  • Liver disease
  • Babies born to mothers with diabetes
  • Babies born too early or too small
  • Babies born with associated conditions

Reason for Concern

The brain depends on blood glucose as its main source of energy. The brain will not function normally if there is not enough glucose. Blood glucose that is very low may result in seizures and serious brain injury.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Symptoms of hypoglycemia may not be obvious in newborns. The following are the most common symptoms of hypoglycemia. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Restlessness / jitteriness
  • Pale skin coloring
  • Stopping breathing (apnea)
  • Poor body tone
  • Poor feeding
  • Sluggishness (lethargy)
  • Seizures

The symptoms of hypoglycemia may look a lot like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your baby's provider if you notice these changes in your child.

Diagnosis of Hypoglycemia in the Newborn

Blood tests can diagnose hypoglycemia. Additional testing may be necessary. Generally, a baby with low blood glucose levels will need treatment.

Treatment for Hypoglycemia in the Newborn Will be Determined by

  • Your baby's gestational age, overall health and medical history
  • The reason for your baby’s low blood glucose
  • Your baby's tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies

Treatment includes giving the baby a fast-acting source of glucose by mouth or intravenously (IV). The baby's blood glucose levels should be closely monitored after treatment.

Care of Hypoglycemia in the Newborn at Home

You will be instructed on signs and symptoms of low blood glucose in your child. You may be instructed on how to monitor your baby’s blood glucose at home. You will also be instructed when to call your provider or 911.

Last Updated 04/2021

Reviewed By Amy Mattingly, RN, Education Specialist II, Lori Casnellie, RNIII, and Michelle Lawrence, RNIV