Diabetes and Pregnancy Overview
Managing diabetes during pregnancy is important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes during pregnancy has increased in recent years, both in women with pre-pregnancy diabetes and those with gestational (pregnancy only) diabetes.
While many women with diabetes have healthy babies, there are risks associated with the disease that deems the pregnancy as high risk. The risks associated with diabetes during pregnancy rise with increasing blood glucose levels. Diabetes affects insulin, which moves glucose from the blood and into the body’s cells where it can be used for energy. If the insulin is not managed properly, glucose levels can rise and create health problems for the mother and baby. For these reasons, it is recommended that expectant women with diabetes seek care from a specialist to ensure the disease is closely monitored.
A proper diet and exercise are important for any expectant mother. However, it is of most importance for a mother with diabetes. Glucose levels can be controlled with a combination of eating right, exercising and taking medications, as directed by a health care provider. Monitoring the glucose level is important because some of the birth defects caused by high glucose levels occur during the first eight weeks of pregnancy – before many women know they are pregnant.
Expectant mothers who have diabetes should remember:
- Distribute your foods between three meals and two or three snacks each day. Eating too much at one time can cause your blood sugar to rise too much. It is very important that you do not skip meals. During pregnancy, you have increased nutritional needs and your baby requires balanced nutrition.
- Breakfast matters. Blood sugar can be difficult to control in the morning because of normal fluctuations in hormone levels. A breakfast that consists of starch, plus protein, is usually tolerated the best.
- Strictly limit sweets and desserts. Cakes, cookies, candies and pastries tend to have excessive amounts of carbohydrate. These foods often contain large amounts of fat and offer very little in terms of nutrition. Additionally, avoid all regular sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages; and limit fruit portions as they are high in natural sugars.
- When a product says it is “sugar-free,” take a closer look. Products containing sugar-alcohols are often labeled “sugar-free,” but they may still contain significant amounts of total carbohydrate. Look at the food label to see the grams of total carbohydrate contained.
If diabetes is not managed well during pregnancy, risks can include birth defects, high blood pressure, hydramnios (an increased amount of amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac) and macrosomia (larger than average baby).