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A high metabolic rate, low glycogen and fat reserves, and limited capacity for gluconeogenesis contribute to the normal newborn's postbirth risk of hypoglycemia. Approximately 8% of normal term infants who were born vaginally and nearly 16% of those born by cesarean delivery experience one or more episodes of hypoglycemia, usually within the 24 to 72 hr period following birth. Premature and small-for-gestational-age infants experience an earlier onset (6 hr or so after birth) because of reduced glycogen production by their smaller, immature livers. Infants of diabetic mothers and those who are small for gestational age exhibit a higher incidence of low blood sugar. Other maternal risk factors for newborn hypoglycemia include erythroblastosis fetalis, glycogen storage diseases, and toxemia. Newborn risk factors include postmaturity, macrosomia, cold stress, perinatal asphyxia, sepsis, and respiratory distress syndrome.
Newborns are monitored closely for muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, lethargy, poor feeding, vomiting, sweating, limpness, weak or high-pitched cry, apnea, and cyanosis. For high-risk infants, glucose levels are assessed every 2 hr for 6 hr, then at 12, 24, and 48 hr after delivery. Prompt treatment is provided with oral breast milk or a 5% to 10% glucose solution or intravenous glucose as necessary. IV infusions must be closely monitored to avoid hyperglycemia, circulatory overload, and cellular dehydration. Solutions should be terminated gradually to prevent hypoglycemia due to hyperinsulinemia.