February 21, 2019
Women with type 1 and type 2 diabetes face a much higher risk of developing complications during pregnancy. These risks include birth defects, miscarriage, preterm delivery, pre-eclampsia and large birth weights.
But with careful planning and good blood sugar control, you can help assure the healthiest possible pregnancy and baby.
Plan Ahead for a Safe Pregnancy
Women with diabetes are two-to-four times more likely to have a pregnancy complicated by birth defects like cleft lip and palate, or heart, neural tube, brain, and limb defects. High blood sugars, or hyperglycemia, further increase the risk of complications.
That’s why maintaining good glucose (blood sugar) control before getting pregnant can help decrease the risk of problems. And because birth defects caused by high blood sugars develop in the first eight-to-ten weeks of a pregnancy when many women don’t know they are pregnant, planning is very important.
Glucose Control is the Key
A good indicator of blood sugar control is the hemoglobin A1c value (HgbA1c). HgbA1c indicates a person’s average blood sugar over a three-month period.
Research shows a woman with an HgbA1c of 6.2% has a 2.7% risk of birth defects. An HgbA1c of 7.6%, increases that risk to 4%. In women with very poorly controlled diabetes (an HgbA1c of greater than 14%), the risk of having a pregnancy affected by a birth defect is 20%, or 1 in 5.
A Mother’s Health
Diabetes also poses health risks for expecting moms themselves. For instance, pregnant women with diabetes are three-to-four times more likely to develop high blood pressure than the general population. And women who had high blood pressure before becoming pregnant are at the greatest risk for developing worsening blood pressures during pregnancy.
How to Lower Your Risk
- Talk with a medical professional regarding your plans before getting pregnant.
- Receive regular care and develop a plan with a provider to improve your diabetes control.
- Work on lifestyle changes, such as diet, weight management and exercise, to improve your hemoglobin A1c.
- Meet with a registered dietician to discuss the recommendations for women with diabetes, both before and during pregnancy.
- Address any other health problems you may have.
Pregnancy can be a scary and unpredictable time. But having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy and successful pregnancy. By managing diabetes before becoming pregnant and working closely with your health care provider, you can lower the risks to both you and your baby.
If you have diabetes before becoming pregnant, your pregnancy is considered high risk and your doctor may refer you to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist. Clinicians in maternal-fetal medicine, a specialty within the field of obstetrics, work to make high-risk situations less stressful for women, their babies, and families.