Diabetes and Pregnancy

Women who have diabetes before they get pregnant have special health concerns. In addition to the new demands that a pregnancy will put on your body, it will also affect your blood sugar levels and diabetes medications.

If you're thinking about having a baby, take steps to lessen the risks for both you and your child.

Get Ready

A pre-conception counseling appointment will help you be physically and emotionally prepared for pregnancy.

Meet with your doctor to find out if your diabetes is controlled well enough for you to stop your birth control method. A blood test called the glycosylated hemoglobin test (HbA1c, or just A1c) can show how well it's been going over the past 8 to 12 weeks.

Other medical tests can help prevent complications during pregnancy:

Blood Sugar Control

High blood sugar levels early in the pregnancy (before 13 weeks) can cause birth defects. They also can increase the risks of miscarriage and diabetes-related complications.

But many women don't know they're pregnant until the baby has been growing for 2 to 4 weeks. That's why you should have good control of your blood sugar before you start trying to conceive.

Keep blood glucose levels within the ideal range:

  • 70 to 100 mg/dL before meals
  • Less than 120 mg/dL 2 hours after eating
  • 100-140 mg/dL before your bedtime snack 

Use your meals, exercise, and diabetes medications to keep a healthy balance.

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How Diabetes May Affect Your Baby

Babies born to women with diabetes are often much bigger, a condition called "macrosomia."

Because their mothers have high blood sugar levels, they get too much sugar through the placenta. The baby's pancreas senses it and makes more insulin to use it up. That extra sugar gets converted to fat, making a large baby.

Many hospitals keep an eye on babies of mothers with diabetes for several hours after birth. If you regularly have high blood sugar levels while you're pregnant (and especially in the 24 hours before delivery), your baby may get dangerously low blood sugar right after they're born. Their insulin is based on your high sugar, and when it's suddenly taken away, their blood sugar level drops quickly and they'll need glucose to balance it out.

Their calcium and magnesium levels may be off, too. Those can be fixed with medication.

Some babies are too big to be delivered vaginally, and you'll need a cesarean delivery or c-section. Your doctor will keep an eye on your baby's size so you can plan for the safest way to give birth.

Diabetes Medications

If you use insulin to control your diabetes, your doctor can tell you how to adjust your dose. Your body will probably need more while you're pregnant, especially during the last 3 months.

If you take a pill, you may need to switch to insulin. It may not be safe to use some drugs, or you may get better sugar control.

Diet

Changing what and how you eat will help you avoid problems with your blood sugar levels.

You'll also need to include more calories for your growing baby. Your doctor or diabetes educator can help you figure out how to do that safely.

Will I Carry My Baby to Term?

Women with mild diabetes or who are very well controlled often go full-term without any problems.

However, many doctors prefer to plan for an early delivery, usually around weeks 38-39.

Blood Sugar During Labor and Delivery

Labor can be a stressful time for you and the baby. If you've been using insulin during your pregnancy, you may need it when labor begins. You can take it as a shot or get it intravenously.

Right after delivery, your need for insulin will likely drop quickly.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on March 16, 2017

Sources

SOURCES: 

Metrika.

The American Diabetes Association.

© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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