Pregnancy and Diabetes Pregnancy and Diabetes
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Controlling diabetes before and during pregnancy will help prevent birth defects and other poor outcomes, such as miscarriage or stillbirth.
Diabetes is often detected in women during their childbearing years and can affect the health of both the mother and her unborn child. Poor control of diabetes in a woman who is pregnant increases the chances for birth defects and other problems for the baby. It might cause serious complications for the woman, also. Proper health care before and during pregnancy will help prevent birth defects and other poor outcomes, such as miscarriage or stillbirth.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot use the sugars and starches (carbohydrates) it takes in as food to make energy. The body either makes too little insulin in the pancreas or cannot use the insulin it makes to change those sugars and starches into energy. As a result, the body collects extra sugar in the blood. The extra sugar in the blood can damage organs of the body, such as the heart, eyes, and kidneys, if it is allowed to collect in the body too long. Three types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, and gestational.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas makes no insulin or so little insulin that the body can’t use blood sugar for energy. Type 1 diabetes must be controlled with daily insulin shots, diet, and exercise. Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body either makes too little insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes to use blood sugar for energy. Often type 2 diabetes can be controlled through eating a proper diet and exercising regularly. Some people with type 2 diabetes have to take diabetes pills or insulin or both. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is first diagnosed in a pregnant woman. Often gestational diabetes can be controlled through eating a proper diet and exercising regularly, but sometimes a woman with gestational diabetes must also take insulin shots. Usually gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy, but sometimes diabetes doesn’t. Also, many women who have had gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes. How does gestational diabetes differ from type 1 or type 2 diabetes?
Some women have more than one pregnancy affected by diabetes that disappears after the pregnancy ends. About half of women with gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes later.
If not controlled, gestational diabetes can cause the baby to grow extra large and lead to problems with delivery for the mother and the baby. Gestational diabetes might be controlled with diet and exercise, or it might take insulin as well as diet and exercise to get control.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes often are present before a woman gets pregnant. If not controlled before and during pregnancy, type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause the baby to have birth defects and cause the mother to have problems (or her problems to worsen if they are already present), such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, nerve damage, heart disease, or blindness. Type 1 diabetes must be controlled with a balance of diet, exercise, and insulin. Type 2 diabetes might be controlled with diet and exercise, or it might take diabetes pills or insulin or both as well as diet and exercise to get control.
How can a woman with diabetes who wants to get pregnant prevent problems to herself and her baby?
Plan the pregnancy. It is very important for a woman with diabetes to get her body ready before she becomes pregnant.
See her doctor. Her doctor needs to look at the effects that diabetes has had on her body already, talk with her about getting and keeping control of her blood sugar, change medications if needed, and plan for frequent follow up.
Monitor blood sugar often. A pregnant woman with diabetes needs to check her blood sugar more often, sometimes 6 to 8 times a day, than when she is not pregnant.
Take medications on time. If insulin is ordered by a doctor, a pregnant woman with diabetes should take it when it’s needed.
Control and treat low blood sugar quickly. Keeping tight blood sugar control can lead to a chance of low blood sugar at times. A pregnant woman with diabetes should have a ready source of carbohydrates, such as glucose tablets or gel or hard candy, on hand at all times.
Follow up with the doctor regularly. A pregnant woman with diabetes needs to see her doctor more often than does a pregnant woman without diabetes. Together, the woman can work with her doctor to prevent or catch problems early.