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Pregnant with diabetes?

Having a baby brings feelings of joy and excitement—and worries about delivering a healthy baby. But if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you may find yourself even more concerned. How will pregnancy affect my diabetes? How will the disease affect my baby?

What to watch for

For Mom, high blood sugar means you may develop high blood pressure or experience a worsening of already existing complications, such as heart disease, the eye disease retinopathy and kidney disease. For baby, uncontrolled blood sugar increases the risk of birth defects, miscarriage, preterm delivery, stillbirth, excessive growth in the womb and low blood sugar at birth. And large babies born to women with diabetes are at greater risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

The good news: If your diabetes is under control, your risk of having a baby with birth defects is about the same as a woman who doesn’t have diabetes.

What to do

The first eight weeks of pregnancy are crucial for your baby’s development. That’s when the brain, heart, kidneys and lungs are forming and are susceptible to the damaging effects of high blood sugar, so if you suspect you’re pregnant, see your healthcare provider right away.

As your pregnancy progresses, you’ll need to adjust your meals, activities and medications. For example, you’ll likely need more insulin as you get closer to your due date, because your body becomes less able to respond to it. Other tips for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Check your blood sugar often. Your provider may tell you to check your levels when you wake up, before and after meals and during the night.
  • Take your medication. Diabetes pills usually aren’t recommended during pregnancy, so you may have to switch to insulin. And some medications used to treat high blood pressure and kidney problems may not be safe during pregnancy, so talk with your provider about alternatives.
  • Eat healthfully. Your healthcare provider and a dietitian can recommend ways to change your diet to control your blood sugar. Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and supplements with folic acid are on the menu.
  • Exercise. Try walks around the neighborhood for at least 30 minutes each day. But exercising can cause drops in blood sugar, so get your provider’s OK before you begin.
  • Get your checkups. Prenatal exams are your provider’s chance to monitor your baby’s growth and make sure you’re doing well. Don’t miss a single visit!