Diabetes and Pregnancy
Having children is the biggest decision we take in our lives. If you are a woman having diabetes, this decision requires more planning and thought.
Most women (having diabetes) deliver healthy babies, but this doesn’t mean it’s an easy experience – it needs dedication and lot of work on your part. If you have diabetes, pregnancy presents unique challenges and give higher risk of some complications.
When you are pregnant, three types of diabetes can affect you – Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational diabetes. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are long-term conditions and may have developed before getting pregnant. Gestational diabetes is developed only during pregnancy and goes away after the baby is born.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is developed when your body doesn’t produce any insulin.
It is advisable to gain control of the blood sugar level throughout pregnancy. “The most important thing for type 1 diabetics is that if they consider pregnancy, they should make sure blood glucose control is under optimal conditions,” recommended obstetrician and gynecologist Raul Artal, chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at St. Louis University in Missouri.
Since type 1 diabetes usually starts in the childhood, women will be aware of their condition before they are pregnant. To prevent complications, they need to take insulin so their blood glucose is in control.
Type 2 Diabetes
This type of diabetes is developed when your body can’t produce enough insulin or the developed insulin doesn’t work properly. Managing this diabetes means being good to yourself.
Women with type 2 diabetes are mainly at risk of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), which can also create pregnancy complications. They should consult both their obstetrician and endocrinologist who can help them be at their healthiest to conceive.
Women with type 2 diabetes usually manage their blood glucose level by exercising, taking healthy food and pills. However, when you become pregnant, hormones may alter the way your body handles blood sugar. Often type 2 diabetes is treated with tablets but some women may need insulin injections.
Usually, glucose amount is controlled by insulin. However, during pregnancy, some women develop more than normal level of glucose which insulin can’t control.
Gestational diabetes affects women only during pregnancy. It is developed in the third trimester and often goes away after the baby is born.
You are expected to get gestational diabetes if diabetes runs in your family or you are overweight before getting pregnant. It can be controlled by diet; your doctor will advise you with foods that help keep your blood sugar stable.
It is important to note that if you have gestational diabetes during pregnancy, you are twice likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
How diabetes can affect you and your baby?
Diabetes during pregnancy could lead to complications for you and the baby:
- Birth Defects: Uncontrolled blood sugar in women can affect organs, which are formed during the first two months and cause severe birth defects such as those of the brain, heart or spine.
- C-Section Delivery: If your diabetic is not well controlled, there is a greater chance of having a C-section delivery, in which it a woman takes longer to get well from delivery.
- Long-term Problems: Diabetes during pregnancy can worsen your long-term problems such as kidney disease, heart disease and eye problems.
- Having an Extra Large Baby: Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can increase of blood sugar level of the baby which leads to overfeeding of the baby and the baby grows extra-large. Apart from the discomfort caused to the mother, it is possible that the baby may be born with nerve damage.
- Stillbirth or Miscarriage: While miscarriages and still births can happen for number of reasons, but women with uncontrolled diabetes have a higher chance of stillbirth or miscarriage.
The Action Plan
Your consultant will help you establish your target blood sugar level. However, it’s on you to make healthy lifestyle choices to control your diabetes. Here are few basics:
- Plan your pregnancy as dealing with pregnancy complications, especially if you have diabetes, can be a game-changer.
- Don’t ignore physical activity in your daily routine, after consulting with the doctor. Check your blood sugar before and after exercising, especially if you take insulin.
- Probably your diet already includes health fruits and vegetables, your dietitian may suggest changes in your diet to help you avoid low or high blood sugar level.
- Schedule your check-ups early and often during pregnancy. Your doctor might recommend prenatal screening tests and ultrasound to monitor baby’s growth and development.
- Check your blood sugar level often because pregnancy may cause the body’s requirement for energy to change and consequently blood sugar levels can change very frequently.