Pregnancy and Diabetes, Minimize the Risks

How to control diabetes during pregnancy

If you already have diabetes when you become pregnant, you'll probably be worried about the effects it will have on your baby. It's true you'll have to be extra careful, but there's no reason that pregnancy and diabetes can't co-exist and if managed well, you should be able to have a perfectly healthy baby.

A lot will depend on what type of diabetes you have, there are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type2. Then there's gestational diabetes or pregnancy induced diabetes, which is brought on by the pregnancy itself.

Pregnancy and type 1 diabetes

The first 12 weeks (first trimester) of your pregnancy are the time when your baby's organs are developing. This is the time when it's most important to keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Keep in close contact with your obstetrician and your regular health carer and monitor your glucose levels frequently during the day.

It's possible that your body may need slightly less insulin than usual during this time so be alert for low glucose levels too. If you suffer from morning sickness at this time, this can affect the way your body absorbs food which may further disrupt glucose levels.

Make sure your diet is healthy and contains plenty of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and brown rice. Avoid high fat foods and too much protein and grill or steam foods instead of frying.

Exercise can help to control blood glucose levels, control weight and also promote a feeling of well being. Walking, swimming and gentle weight lifting are fine. See pregnancy and exercise for more information on safe ways to exercise.

Pregnancy and type 2 diabetes

Much the same applies as type 1 diabetes and pregnancy except perhaps maybe you're not taking insulin to control your condition. Your health carer may advise you to change your medication to insulin as this may be safer for your baby. Insulin doesn't cross the placenta so doesn't pose a threat unlike some other diabetes medications.

If you're controlling type 2 diabetes by diet, make sure you monitor your glucose levels frequently, especially during the first trimester as high blood glucose levels can cause organ damage to the fetus during this time.

Gestational diabetes in pregnancy

Gestational diabetes poses slightly less risk as it usually start later in the pregnancy after the fetus is more developed. Only around 4-5% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. You will still have to look after yourself and monitor you glucose levels though and insulin may still be needed. However this type of diabetes usually resolves itself after the birth, although the remains a risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

There are certain indicators you can watch out for which can warn you of possible gestational diabetes. Weight loss in spite of eating more, blurred vision and excessive thirst are classic symptoms and should be investigated immediately.

The main risk factors of pregnancy and diabetes

There are several risks factors both for mum and baby. The main ones for mum are high blood pressure and eye damage (retinopathy). A visit to an eye specialist may be a good idea early in the pregnancy.

There are more risks to the baby. He or she may grow larger causing a difficult birth. There could be a risk of miscarriage and spontaneous death. There is also a risk of jaundice, hypoglycaemia or birth defects (although these are rare). However if you're careful, especially in the first trimester, these probably won't be an issue at all.

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