How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy with Diabetes
Diabetes, whether it be Type 1 or Type 2 is quite common and manageable. People with diabetes learn to manage their symptoms and their condition, and often it does not have an adverse effect on quality of life as long as a healthy diet is maintained and blood glucose levels are monitored closely.
When considering having a baby or if you are already pregnant, and have diabetes, there are a few extra considerations you might need to keep in mind before and during your pregnancy. Diabetes is a manageable condition that is also manageable during pregnancy, and just requires balanced management of your health for preparation before pregnancy and monitoring during your pregnancy.
Diabetes is a condition during which the body has trouble processing food for use as energy. When we eat, we turn it into glucose so that our bodies can use it as energy. The pancreas makes insulin to help that glucose get into the cells of our bodies, and this helps to regulate our blood-sugar concentration. Insulin is unbalanced when someone has diabetes, and treatment and vigilance are necessary to manage the condition.
Pregnancy is also known to cause complications. For about seven percent of all pregnancies, gestational diabetes (diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy) is a potential problem that usually occurs in the second half of the pregnancy. By the time the baby is born, it is usually gone, and it can be managed quite easily, but if it is not treated during the pregnancy, the possibility of complication rises significantly.
Hormones are running wild during pregnancy, and some of them can cause the body to be resistant to the action of insulin. This will affect the body’s ability to absorb glucose for your brain, heart, tissues, and muscles. Additionally, it may affect your baby as all of the nutrients the baby receives come from the expecting mother. For mothers experiencing gestational diabetes, insulin fails to move glucose to the cells that need it, leading the glucose to accumulate in the blood and making blood sugar levels rise.
How Will You Know?
You should know if you start feeling faint or your energy levels are low, but to confirm you should take a blood test. Your doctor will usually have you drink a sweet beverage, which will act as the stimulant for the test. If your blood sugar is too high, then your pancreas is not producing enough insulin, and you have gestational diabetes.
Usually, just one test is enough, but some doctors prefer to do an initial screening test and then a longer evaluation to cover all the bases. Having a definitive diagnosis is an important first step toward taking care of you and your baby during pregnancy if you are experiencing gestational diabetes.
Who Is at Risk
People who have a parent or sibling with diabetes may be at higher risk for gestational diabetes. Knowing your family’s medical history can help plan for this. Expecting mothers who may be overweight are also at higher risk than normal for gestational diabetes. Gaining weight is a natural part of being pregnant, but managing a healthy diet and regular exercise can help lower the risk of getting gestational diabetes and its effects can be minimized if you do get it.
Diabetes and Your Baby
Keeping your baby healthy during the gestational period is important for the baby’s health when it is born. Gestational diabetes could affect your baby when it is born, causing low blood sugar or high birth weight.
Low Blood Sugar
If your gestational diabetes has been causing high blood sugar levels during your pregnancy, your baby may have low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. Without the supply of sugar from maternal blood, your baby’s blood may fall temporarily while the nurses and doctors monitor and treat any episodes of low blood sugar.
High Birth Weight
Exposure to high sugar levels may also result in higher birth weight for your baby. This could make the delivery complicated for both you and your baby as it weighs more and is physically larger.
If You Are Already Diabetic
It may be the case that you are already diabetic and are planning to get pregnant. Women with pre-existing type 1 or type 2 diabetes should receive quality preconception care. This will help optimize glycemic control, find complications, assess whether medication is needed, and begin the folic acid supplementation process.
Often a healthcare team that includes a diabetes nurse educator, dietician, obstetrician, and endocrinologist/internist with expertise in diabetes is needed. This team will be responsible for managing the effects of the mother’s diabetes pre-conception and during the pregnancy to ensure the health of the mother and the delivery of a healthy baby.
Whether you are at risk of diabetes or already have diabetes, a visit to your doctor or diabetes educator at least 6 months before you start trying to conceive is recommended. The advice and guidance they give you will help at every step of the process, and help increase the odds of healthy and safe childbirth. If you are already healthy and your diabetes is well controlled when you become pregnant, you have a good chance of having a normal pregnancy and birth.
Having diabetes will not affect your breastfeeding, and insulin is not harmful to the baby. Your post-delivery care should continue to ensure that you and your baby are healthy. A baby has a slight chance of developing diabetes if the mother is diabetic, but it is far more likely that they will not.
Manageable, and Normal
While diabetes is a serious condition that needs to be handled and treated with care, it is not impossible. With the right precautions, care, and team, you and your baby will have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and you will be able to enjoy being a mother without issues.