Diabetes and Pregnancy

Often, women get diagnosed with diabetes in their childbearing years. This can significantly affect both the mother’s and unborn child’s health. The odds of birth defects are severely increased with poor management of diabetes during pregnancy. Likewise, poor management of the condition can bring about serious health complications for the mother. It is for this reason that a pregnant woman must receive the best possible healthcare before and during her pregnancy.

How Will Diabetes Affect You and Your Pregnancy?

  • Having high levels of blood sugar prior to and during your pregnancy can make your diabetes issues even worse. This means that heart disease, eye problems and kidney disease, among others, will worsen.
  • Diabetes during pregnancy can also lead to your baby being born much earlier than he/she should be, weighing too much, having problems breathing or low blood sugar immediately after birth, among others.
  • As mentioned earlier, your baby could be born with a few defects too.
  • There is also the possibility of losing your baby via miscarriage or a stillbirth. This, though, is only in cases where the diabetes is poorly managed during the pregnancy.
  • It is only natural that if you have too much sugar in your blood, your baby will too. It is possible that the baby will be born with very high glucose levels. Soon after birth, though, his/her glucose levels may drop very quickly and become too low.

How to Prepare for Pregnancy If You Have Diabetes

To properly manage your diabetes and pregnancy, you have to do a few things. These are:

1. Visit Your Doctor First

It is important to make a counselling appointment prior to conception so you can know if you are in total control of your diabetes. A few tests that can be done so as to prevent complications include:

  • Urinalysis for kidney issues
  • Cholesterol blood tests
  • Triglyceride blood tests
  • Eye exam for cataracts, glaucoma, or retinopathy
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Blood to ensure your liver and kidneys are functional

You should also let your doctor know about any medication you are currently on so as to make sure you can still take it when you are pregnant (or what to do if you can't take it then).

As often as you can, you should also meet with a few medical specialists who know a thing or two about managing diabetes as well as all the complications that may arise during pregnancy for a woman with diabetes.

2. Get Your Diabetes Under Control

Of course, you should manage your diabetes well whether or not you’re trying to get pregnant. If you want to get pregnant, you should ensure you are properly managing your condition about 3 to 6 months before you actually start trying. Until you get your diabetes under control, you should always use birth control.

Having high levels of blood sugar in the early weeks of pregnancy (between 1 and 13 weeks) may result in serious birth defects for the baby. This likewise increases the risk of you miscarrying. Unfortunately, most women do not know they are pregnant until nearly a month in. It is for this reason that you should properly manage your blood glucose levels before you try to get pregnant.

Basically, to manage your diabetes and pregnancy, you should keep your blood sugar levels in the ranges listed below (in ml/dL):

  • Before meals: between 70 and 100
  • After meals: below 120
  • Prior to a bedtime snack: between 100 and 140

3. Take Folic Acid Supplements

You should take a multivitamin that contains 400 micrograms of folic acid every single day when managing your diabetes prior to getting pregnant. Folic acid is an essential vitamin that facilitates healthy growth and development of the cells in your body. If you take folic acid before you get pregnant as well as during the early weeks of pregnancy, it will go a long way in protecting your unborn baby from various health complications. You should probably take in excess of 400 micrograms of folic acid per day considering you are battling diabetes.

4. Stay Fit

As you should do whether or not you have diabetes, you ought to eat healthily and perform at least one good physical activity every day. It would be good to consult a diabetes educator or a dietitian so that you can come up with a healthy food strategy. 

Tips for Safe Pregnancy with Diabetes

When managing your diabetes, you will get help from your healthcare provider on how to establish a proper target for your blood sugar level range. After that, you are more or less on your own to adhere to these guidelines and to make the right choices

  • Check the level of blood sugar on a regular basis. Frequent monitoring of blood sugar, thrice a day at least, can help you prevent hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels).
  • You need to take all your medications as instructed. Your doctor may feel it is best to take insulin rather than oral medication for your diabetes during pregnancy. There are some medicines that you shouldn't take in pregnancy, such as ACE inhibitors.
  • You'll need to regulate the dose of your insulin depending on the level of your blood sugar, your food, the stage of your pregnancy, and a number of other factors. In the final few months of your pregnancy, the hormones that placenta makes tend to block the insulin’s effect in your own body. This means you will have to up your insulin dose to counter this inhibition.
  • Perform various physical activities every day to properly manage your diabetes and pregnancy. As long as your doctor says it is okay to exercise, you can select the kinds of activities you would like to do. You should target exercise for no less than 150 minutes each week. If it has been a while since you exercised, then you should start gradually and build from there. You should then check your blood glucose levels before and after any sort of physical exercise, more so if you are on insulin.
  • As with any pregnancy, you should schedule prenatal check-ups on a regular basis. Always consult your healthcare provider when in doubt.

Labour, Delivery and Breastfeeding with Diabetes

  • Your doctor will always tell you of the safest way you can have your baby. In many cases, you are left to the hands of nature where labor commencement is concerned. However, in other cases, labor may be induced so as to avoid any possible complications.
  • Your healthcare provider will constantly monitor you during labor and make sure your level of blood sugar is at its best.
  • Though you will focus most of your attentions on your newborn after delivery, it is vital you remember to continue properly managing your health just as you did your diabetes and pregnancy.
  • You do not have to worry about breastfeeding if you have diabetes. The best thing you can give your baby is breast milk anyway, so you need not fear. However, it is wise to consult a dietician to learn about the baby's diet. You should also talk to your doctor about your insulin intake.
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