Diabetes impacts many areas of your life, and when you’re pregnant this is especially true. There was a time, not too long ago, when women who had diabetes were encouraged to not have children at all because of the health risks involved. Fortunately, technological advances in the medical field have created an environment that is much safer for a diabetic woman to become pregnant and to have a baby. The key, however, is to diligently manage the disease so that it doesn’t have a negative impact on your pregnancy.
There is some risk of birth defects when you have diabetes during pregnancy. There are a number of factors that go into it, but essentially your high blood glucose levels are thought to cause a greater risk for birth defects. Because of this, it is important to have your blood glucose under control before becoming pregnant. The first six weeks of pregnancy are critical, as the baby’s organs are first forming. High blood glucose levels during this time greatly increases the odds of having birth defects. Because most women don’t know that they are pregnant until the baby has been growing for two to four weeks, if you are trying to conceive you should make every effort to have your blood glucose levels under control.
In addition, diabetes will impact the manner in which you get ready for pregnancy, as well as how you live your life during pregnancy. You need to make sure you’ve got proper care and medical advice, and you should try to pick an obstetrician who has handled high-risk pregnancies, and who preferably has cared for other pregnant women with diabetes. You’ll also want to find a pediatrician who knows and can treat special problems that may occur in babies of women with diabetes. It can also be helpful to utilize a registered dietician who can help change your meal plan as your needs change both during and after your pregnancy.
If you have type 1 diabetes, pregnancy will also affect your insulin treatment plan. During the time that you are pregnant, your body’s need for insulin will increase, especially during the last three months of pregnancy. This increased need for insulin is caused by hormones made by the placenta. These hormones help the baby grow. At the same time, these hormones block the action of the mother’s insulin. As a result, your insulin needs will increase. Your health care team can help to determine the best way to address this issue.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you too need to plan ahead as well. If you are taking diabetes pills to control your blood glucose, you may not be able to take them when you are pregnant. The safety of using diabetes pills during pregnancy has not been established, so it is likely that your doctor will have you switch to insulin right away.