Diabetes and pregnancy
Diabetes is a condition when you have too much sugar in the blood, and you may develop it before (pre-existing) or during pregnancy (gestational).
If you have diabetes and it is untreated, it can cause health problems for you and your baby.
Talk to your health care provider about how to control your diabetes during pregnancy. Treatments may include managing your eating or exercise habits and taking medicines as prescribed by your provider.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is when your body has too much sugar in the blood (called blood sugar or glucose). If it’s not treated, diabetes can cause serious problems during pregnancy. Controlling it before and during pregnancy can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Two kinds of diabetes can affect your pregnancy:
- Pre-existing diabetes (also called pregestational diabetes). This is diabetes you have before you get pregnant. Pre-existing diabetes can be harmful to your baby in the first few weeks of pregnancy when his brain, heart and lungs start to form.
- Gestational diabetes. This is a kind of diabetes that only pregnant women get. If you have gestational diabetes, it usually develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after you have your baby. Even though it goes away, you’re more likely to develop diabetes later in life. You get a glucose screening test for gestational diabetes at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.
How can diabetes affect pregnancy?
If diabetes isn’t treated, it can cause problems during pregnancy, including:
- Premature birth
- Birth defects, like heart defects and neural tube defects (pre-existing diabetes can cause these birth defects).
- A kind of high blood pressure called preeclampsia that can cause serious problems for you and your baby (gestational diabetes increases risk for preeclampsia).
- Having a very large baby. This may cause you to have trouble during labor and birth so you may need to have a c-section.
What can you do to help control diabetes during pregnancy?
Here’s what you can do:
- Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. Your provider may want to see you more often to make sure you and your baby are healthy.
- Learn how to control your blood sugar by eating healthy foods and being active every day. You may want to see a dietitian who can help you create a healthy meal plan.
- If your provider wants you to take medicine to treat your diabetes, take it exactly as she tells you to. Tell your provider about any medicine you take, even if it’s not for diabetes.
Does diabetes affect breastfeeding?
If you have pre-existing or gestational diabetes, your baby is more likely to develop diabetes later in life. To help keep your baby healthy, breastfeed! Breast milk is the best food for most babies. Breastfed babies are less likely than babies who don’t breastfeed to develop diabetes and other conditions later in life.
If you’re breastfeeding, talk to your provider about a healthy meal plan and the amount of insulin you need. And let your baby’s provider know that you have diabetes so he can watch your baby for signs of diabetes as he grows.
If you have pre-existing diabetes:
- What worked to control your blood sugar before pregnant may not work during pregnancy. You may need to make some changes. Your provider can help you decide what's right for you.
- If you take insulin shots, you may need more insulin during pregnancy.
- Check your blood sugar often. Your provider can show you how. Learn what your blood sugar level should be and when to check it.