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Neonatal Hypoglycaemia Solicitors - UK Medical Negligence Compensation Claim


Neonatal hypoglycaemia means there is an abnormally low level of glucose (sugar) in the blood of a newborn baby. It is the most common metabolic problem to affect newborn babies.

The presence of a neonatal hypoglycaemic condition is usually diagnosed almost immediately after the baby's birth, typically within four hours. Healthy full term babies are not affected by the low blood sugar, so, if the baby is does not fall within the parameters of a normal delivery, the attending medical staff should be on alert for signs of neonatal hypoglycaemia and take proper steps to remedy the condition.

Traditionally, neonatal hypoglycaemia has been diagnosed on the basis of blood glucose concentration, clinical signs or a combination of both.

Failure to spot the signs of Neonatal hypoglycaemia by healthcare staff may be as a result medical negligence which in due course can lead to severe disability for the child in later life. A medical negligence solicitor may be able to help you to get compensation if your child has been affected. Our solicitors operate the no win no fee* scheme otherwise known as a conditional fee agreement and our solicitors are authorised to make application for Legal Aid in appropriate cases. If you would like advice from a specialist medical negligence solicitor without further obligation just use the helpline or contact our offices by email.


Positive findings of neonatal hypoglycaemia are established initially on observations of the baby's behaviour by experienced medical staff and then confirmed by a blood test.


There are many different conditions that may lead to hypoglycaemia in the newborn, but the most common are :

  • low birth weight babies weighing less than 2 kilograms
  • high birth weight babies weighing more than 4 kilograms
  • babies of diabetic mothers
  • babies otherwise compromised by illness or infection
  • pre-term babies born prior to 37 weeks gestation
  • cold stress (where the baby is not kept warm enough immediately after birth)
  • birth asphyxia (lack of oxygen at birth)
  • the presence of birth defects or other disease
  • conflicting blood groups, where the baby's blood group is incompatible with the mother's. This situation may be called either Rhesus Isoimmunisation or ABO Incompatibility


When medical attendants become aware the baby has any of the conditions likely to lead to neonatal hypoglycaemia, there are a number of behavioural factors they watch the infant for :

  • jitteriness
  • increased respiratory rate
  • apnoea (not breathing for extended periods)
  • no interest in feeding
  • unable to maintain a normal body temperature
  • 'floppiness' when handled
  • excessive sleepiness
  • convulsions


Naturally, prevention is not always possible, but there are some standard procedures always used to prevent the possibility of neonatal hypoglycaemia :-

  • Mothers with pre-existing conditions need to be especially vigilant during their pregnancy and report any anomalies to medical staff as advised by health care professionals.
  • Regular blood tests, blood pressure tests and other monitoring of mothers at risk during pregnancy is probably one of the easiest ways to avoid neonatal hypoglycaemia.
  • The most important element to preventing neonatal hypoglycaemia at the time of birth is to warm the baby as soon as possible. Cold stress can cause an otherwise healthy baby to show signs such as jitteriness and lethargy.
  • Another early precaution is to ensure the baby is fed as soon as feasible after birth whenever any of the risk factors or symptoms are present.


The best treatment naturally depends on the cause, but standards apply here too. The accepted measures followed in medical facilities are:

  • Visual monitoring of the signs and symptoms that indicate neonatal hypoglycaemia is present are carried out on a regular basis.
  • Performing regular blood glucose readings every 4 hours and making sure the baby's body temperature is maintained at a minimum of 36.5oC.
  • Immediate feeding is the best cure for neonatal hypoglycaemia and, if the baby is unable or unwilling to suckle, then feeding via a tube inserted down the infant's throat or intravenously.

Through an awareness of etiological factors, proper mitigation of potential causations before birth and following correct procedures and observations after birth, neonatal hypoglycaemia is a completely curable and a largely preventable birth complication.

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Neonatal Hypoglycaemia Overview

Neonatal hypoglycaemia is a condition of newborns when their blood sugar or glucose levels get too low, which is under 50 mg/dL. It is a condition that has many different causes but for which a high level of suspicion must happen because there can be complications that are permanent and the prevention and treatment are relatively easy.

Hypoglycaemia in the new born affects more babies than others. Those babies at higher risk for neonatal hypoglycaemia include:

  • Small for gestational age or growth restricted infants might be born with too few stores of sugar.
  • Babies whose mothers are diabetic or who have gestational diabetes are at risk for gestational diabetes because, when the umbilical cord is cut, the source of sugar is cut off and the infant�s pancreas is still active�so active that it lowers the blood sugar levels.
  • Babies that are extremely stressed at birth.
  • Premature infants with a low birth weight have limited sugar stores in the liver and get low sugar levels after birth.
  • Babies who get cold at birth.
  • Babies born to mothers on terbutaline.
  • Babies who are large for gestational age, which can be related to congenital hyperinsulinism or gestational diabetes.

Hypoglycaemia is caused by those conditions that prevent or lower the glycogen (glucose) stores or lower the level of glucose in the neonatal bloodstream. If the glycogen stores are quickly used up or if there is an inhibition of the use of glucose in the body, the sugar levels can get too low.

Conditions that are frequently associated with hypoglycaemia in the newborn include the following conditions:

  • Excess insulin production in the mother
  • Poor maternal nutrition in pregnancy
  • Haemolytic disease of the newborn from incompatibility of maternal and foetal blood types
  • Congenital metabolic diseases
  • Birth defects
  • Cold stress
  • Liver disease
  • Birth asphyxia
  • Foetal infection

Neonatal hypoglycaemia is a concern for the newborn because the brain depends upon blood glucose levels in order to serve as its main source of nutrition. If the glucose level gets too low, it can impair the brain�s ability to function. Prolonged loss of sugar can result in a serious brain injury or a seizure disorder.

If an infant develops hypoglycaemia, the symptoms may not be all that obvious. This is why the sugar should be checked if there are any symptoms or if the situation is suspicious for hypoglycaemia. The main symptoms of neonatal hypoglycaemia include being jittery, being cyanotic (blue), apnea (breath stoppage), low body temperature, low infant tone, poor feeding, seizures, and lethargy. These symptoms can be non-specific and can mimic other diseases; this is another reason why doctors should check for low blood sugar.

The diagnosis of hypoglycaemia is made by checking a heel stick blood sugar in an infant that might have neonatal hypoglycaemia. Blood sugar levels below 50 mg/dL need some form of treatment.

The treatment for neonatal hypoglycaemia depends on the following things:

  • The infant�s overall health, gestational age, and medical history
  • The baby�s tolerance to specific treatments
  • The extent of the baby�s disease
  • The expectations for how the disease is going to progress
  • The doctor�s preference or opinion

Treatment can be as simple as early feedings with glucose water which will bring up the blood sugar in otherwise normal infants. Some infants need to receive glucose by intravenous means. The blood sugar level is carefully monitored and treatment is discontinued when the blood sugar has stabilized.

There is no way to completely prevent neonatal hypoglycaemia but it is up to the doctor to carefully monitor the infant for symptoms and to have a high index of suspicion for those mothers that might have a baby with neonatal hypoglycaemia. Blood sugar must be tightly controlled in mothers who have diabetes and in the infants once they are born.


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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here