Healthy Pregnancy for Women with Diabetes

When you have diabetes, you have special concerns that you need to manage to stay healthy. When you are pregnant and have diabetes, you also face unique challenges. But it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy, even with diabetes. You just need to take special care before and during pregnancy.

What is the diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body does not produce or use the hormone insulin properly. It causes too much glucose (sugar) to build up in the blood. This can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, kidney failure, or blindness. The 3 most common types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1. This occurs when your body does not produce insulin. You have to take insulin to control it.
  • Type 2. This occurs when your body does not make enough insulin or use it as it should. Sometimes it can be controlled through diet and exercise. Some people need to take insulin or medicine to control it.
  • Gestational diabetes. This is a special type of diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy. It usually goes away soon after the baby is born. It’s different from having diabetes before you get pregnant.

How does diabetes affect a pregnant woman?

When diabetes is properly managed and blood sugar levels are controlled, you shouldn’t see many problems. However, if blood sugar levels are not well controlled, diabetes can cause problems for a pregnant woman.

  • Pregnancy can make some diabetes problems worse in the long term. These include eye problems and kidney diseases.
  • You are more likely to develop preeclampsia. This is when you develop high blood pressure and too much protein in your urine. It can cause serious or life-threatening problems for you and your baby.
  • High blood glucose levels can increase the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth. A miscarriage is the loss of a baby before 20 weeks. A stillbirth means that the baby dies in the womb sometime after 20 weeks.
  • You are more likely to need a cesarean section. Also called a cesarean section, this is when surgery is performed to deliver the baby through the mother’s womb. The mother takes longer to recover and carries risks of complications, as with any surgery.

How does diabetes affect the developing baby?

Having high blood sugar levels can harm your baby as soon as he or she begins to develop. These problems may include:

  • Birth defects. The baby’s organs are formed during the first 2 months of pregnancy. Uncontrolled blood sugar can affect these organs and cause birth defects. These include defects in the brain, spine and heart.
  • A big baby. When your blood sugar is high, your baby’s is too. This makes the baby grow a lot. It can cause problems during childbirth for both mother and baby. Large babies are also more likely to have obesity or diabetes when they are older.
  • Premature birth. This is when the baby is born too early. Babies born prematurely are more likely to have breathing, heart, intestinal, and vision problems. Women with diabetes are more likely to have premature babies.
  • Low blood sugar. When a mother does not control her diabetes during pregnancy, the baby’s blood sugar level can become very low after birth. This can be serious and should be treated quickly.

Path to better health

When diabetes is well controlled and blood sugar levels are kept within a healthy range, your chances of having a healthy baby increase. Follow these steps to have a healthy pregnancy when you have diabetes.

Plan ahead

Make an appointment with your doctor before You get pregnant. You will probably have tests to see how diabetes has affected your body. They will help you control your blood sugar levels and make sure it is safe to get pregnant.

Consult your doctor

When you have diabetes, you need to see your doctor more often than if you did not have diabetes. Attend all your prenatal appointments and follow your doctor’s instructions.

Eat healthy

Consult a dietician if you don’t already have one. He or she can help you create a healthy eating plan that will help keep your blood sugar levels under control. Follow the plan and eat a healthy diet to help keep your baby healthy.

Exercise

Exercise is an important part of diabetes management, especially during pregnancy. It helps balance food intake and keeps blood sugar level under control. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.

take your medicine

Whether it’s vitamins, diabetes pills, or insulin, take your medications as directed by your doctor. He or she may adjust what you take once you become pregnant. Some women with type 1 and type 2 diabetes may need insulin during pregnancy. For others, diabetes can be controlled with oral medications. Even if you were taking insulin before you became pregnant, the amount you need will change when you are pregnant. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. Medication amounts may change as your pregnancy progresses.

Check your blood sugar frequently

Your blood sugar levels can change very quickly when you are pregnant. Follow your doctor’s instructions and check your sugar levels frequently. This will allow you to see how exercise, diet choices, insulin, or other medications affect your blood sugar. That way you can make any necessary adjustments. It will also allow you to see when your levels are getting too low before you have a serious reaction.

Follow other guidelines for a healthy pregnancy

As with any pregnancy, there are certain things you should do to achieve the best health for you and your baby.

  • Do not smoke. It may increase your chances of having a premature or stillborn baby. It can also increase diabetes-related health problems, such as eye, heart, or kidney disease.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can cause serious problems in your baby that could affect him for the rest of his life.
  • Take your vitamins. Folic acid is an important vitamin to take during pregnancy. You should start taking it before you become pregnant and continue throughout your pregnancy. Ask your doctor how much folic acid you should take or if there are other vitamins you should take.

Things to consider

Your body goes through many changes when you are pregnant. Any of these changes can affect your blood sugar level at any time. They can also affect how you manage your diabetes. Even if your diabetes has been well controlled in the past, you may need to change your habits. This includes your eating plan, your exercise routine, and the medications you take. As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to change your management plan again. Be flexible and listen to your doctor. Follow their instructions. Take care of yourself, control your blood sugar levels, and you will have a healthy pregnancy.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • How can I control my blood sugar level?
  • How often should I check my blood sugar level?
  • Do I need to take diabetes pills or insulin?
  • Do I need to take any vitamins or supplements?
  • Should I see a dietician?
  • What exercises can I do to stay active while I’m pregnant?
  • Will I be able to breastfeed my baby?

Resources

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Pregnancy if you have diabetes

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Diabetes and Pregnancy

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