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Gestational diabetes alters the fetal heart rate variability during an oral glucose tolerance test: a fetal magnetocardiography study.

OBJECTIVE: Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) potentially harms the child before birth. We previously found GDM to be associated with developmental changes in the central nervous system. We now hypothesise that GDM may also impact on the fetal autonomic nervous system under metabolic stress like an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

DESIGN: We measured heart rate variability (HRV) of mothers and fetuses during a three-point OGTT using fetal magnetocardiography (fMCG).

SETTING: Measurements were performed in the fMEG Centre in Tübingen.

POPULATION: After exclusion of 23 participants, 13 pregnant women with GDM and 36 pregnant women with normal glucose tolerance were examined.

METHODS: All women underwent the same examination setting with OGTT during which fMCG was recorded three times.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Parameters of heart rate variability were measured.

RESULTS: Compared with mothers with normal glucose regulation, mothers with GDM showed increased heart rate but no significant differences of maternal HRV. In contrast, HRV in fetuses of mothers with GDM differed from those in the metabolically healthy group regarding standard deviation normal to normal beat (SDNN) (P = 0.012), low-frequency band (P = 0.008) and high-frequency band (P = 0.031). These HRV parameters exhibit a decrease only in GDM fetuses during the second hour of the OGTT.

CONCLUSIONS: These results show an altered response of the fetal autonomic nervous system to metabolic stress in GDM-complicated pregnancies. Hence, disturbances in maternal glucose metabolism might not only impact on the central nervous system of the fetus but may also affect the fetal autonomic nervous system.

TWEETABLE ABSTRACT: Metabolic stress reveals a different response of fetal autonomic nervous system in GDM-complicated pregnancies.

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