Your Guide to Diabetes and Pregnancy – Risks and Preparations
Living with a chronic condition such as diabetes requires a certain amount of planning and organization. But once you have lived with the condition for a while, the routine checks and lifestyle adjustments become second nature.
But if you are planning on having a baby, then you may be wondering how diabetes will affect your pregnancy.
The good news is that diabetes through pregnancy is perfectly manageable.
There are thought to be around 100 million people living with diabetes in the US, and millions of diabetic women have healthy pregnancies each year.
However, there are some precautions you should take if you are pregnant and diabetic.
Read our guide to diabetes and pregnancy risks to find out more.
Preparing For Pregnancy With Diabetes
If you have diabetes and are trying for a baby, there are certain things you can start doing even before you get pregnant.
Talk to your health care team about what your blood glucose target should be, and whether it will change through pregnancy. Then you should check your blood sugar regularly, and try and get your glucose levels as close to your target as you can before you get pregnant.
You should also get a full check-up with your doctors or diabetes team before you get pregnant. Checking your blood pressure, kidney, liver and thyroid functions will show if there are any problems that need treatment before you get pregnant.
There are also some general healthcare tips that will help make sure that your pregnancy is a happy and healthy one.
You should really avoid alcohol when pregnant regardless of whether you have diabetes. But for diabetics, alcoholic drinks can have a much greater impact on their blood sugar levels.
Alcohol can also damage the developing baby when you are pregnant. So it really is best to avoid it altogether when pregnant.
Do Not Smoke
As with alcohol, it is not just diabetics who should avoid smoking either. However, smoking can increase diabetes-related health problems such as heart disease and kidney disease, and can also raise blood pressure.
Vitamins and Minerals
Making sure you eat a healthy, nutritious diet throughout pregnancy is very important for diabetics. Not only will it help keep your blood glucose levels more stable, but you will also need the vitamins and minerals.
You should talk to your health care team, or a specialist nutritionist to discuss what your recommended intake of vitamins and minerals should be.
It is possible that you will need to take supplements during your pregnancy, especially of folic acid which is important for your baby’s health.
Stay Physically Active
While it can be tiring being pregnant, it is still important that you remain active.
Physical activity can help regulate your blood glucose levels, blood pressure and relieve stress. All of which is really important for diabetics.
It can also help maintain your muscle tone and keep you agile, which will be important when you come to give birth.
Checking Your Glucose During Pregnancy
It is possible you will need to check your blood glucose levels more often during pregnancy and glucose test strips are an easy way to monitor your blood sugar levels.
If your blood sugar is too high in the early stages of pregnancy, it can cause a risk of miscarriage and birth defects. So it is important to keep monitoring it regularly.
Your glucose levels should be:
- 70 to 100 mg/dL before meals
- Less than 120 mg/dL 2 hours after eating
- 100-140 mg/dL before your bedtime snack
But do check with your health care team to see if what your specific target levels should be.
If your blood glucose levels get too high, your body could start producing ketones. If ketones are present in your urine or blood samples it could mean that your body is starting to use fat for energy instead of glucose.
Burning too much fat instead of glucose may not be healthy for your baby’s development, so you should ask your doctor to check for ketones.
Another test that you can ask for is an A1C test. This test will show your average blood glucose levels during the past three months.
Most diabetic women should aim for an A1C test result as close to normal as possible before getting pregnant.
Diabetes And Pregnancy Risks
Pregnancy can exacerbate long term health problems related to diabetes. such as eye disease and kidney disease. But careful monitoring of your blood sugar levels and regular check-ups from your doctor will greatly reduce these risks.
When you are diabetic and pregnant you are also at greater risk of developing preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is sometimes called toxemia and occurs when high blood pressure causes too much protein in your urine during the later stages of pregnancy. Preeclampsia can be very serious and threaten the health of you and your baby. So do discuss monitoring your blood pressure with your doctor.
How Diabetes Could Affect Your Baby
Having diabetes when pregnant can sometimes affect your unborn baby.
Because your baby starts developing within the first eight weeks of pregnancy, it is important you monitor your blood sugar from the start.
If your blood sugar is too high, it can trigger a reaction in your unborn baby which will start making more insulin. This can result in a larger baby than expected, which may cause issues when giving birth.
High blood glucose in the early stages of pregnancy can, in some cases, cause birth defects. The baby’s spine, brain, and heart all start developing very early on, and their development can be interrupted by high blood sugar levels.
More Tips For Diabetics
So those are some of diabetes and pregnancy risks to look out for.
Adopting a sensible approach to food and exercise will go a long way to keeping you healthy throughout your pregnancy.
It is very important that you check your blood glucose levels regularly, and you attend regular check-ups with your health care team.
If you found this useful, check out more of our diabetes tips to help you lead a normal healthy life.