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How Diabetes Affects You and Your Baby

When you’re expecting a baby, your health becomes your baby’s health.

How to Treat Gestational Diabetes in Pregnancy

Protecting your baby from risks during your pregnancy is a full-time job, and when you have a medical condition like diabetes, it can become a much harder job. Perinatologists and other diabetes specialists like the ones at Valley Perinatal Services can help support you and your baby so that you both have the best possible outcome.

Diabetes affects the way that your body processes glucose, leading to high blood sugar levels. Excess blood sugar can cause health problems such as heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness if it’s not controlled. This blood sugar can also be harmful to your baby, who gets blood glucose and ketones through the placenta. High blood sugar is especially dangerous for your baby in the first few weeks of pregnancy, which is when their heart, brain, kidneys, and lungs are forming.

Risks to Your Baby from Uncontrolled Diabetes

Uncontrolled diabetes comes with a lot of risks. Poorly managed diabetes increases your baby’s risk of the following:

  • An increased chance of a cesarean section birth
  • Premature birth
  • Respiratory distress syndrome, which could mean your baby needs help breathing until their lungs become stronger
  • Heart defects
  • Neural tube defects, which happen early in pregnancy and lead to defects of the brain and spine
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Macrosomia, or having a very large birth weight, which could cause injury during delivery and complications later in life
  • Hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose, at birth
  • Jaundice


Preventing Complications from Diabetes

Most women who have their diabetes under control go on to have healthy babies. In order to minimize your risks, there are steps that you can take during and even before your pregnancy.

Manage Your Pre-existing Diabetes

You and your healthcare team will need to work on a plan to manage your blood glucose levels before you plan on getting pregnant. Get your blood glucose levels close to your target range before you get pregnant and stay within your target during pregnancy for three to six months. Your target might change after you become pregnant, so work with your care team about your diet and exercise plans.

Find Out if You’re at Risk for Gestational Diabetes

Even if you don’t have diabetes, you could still develop a form of the disease called gestational diabetes during your pregnancy. Unlike pre-existing diabetes, this condition usually goes away after the pregnancy ends, but you will need careful monitoring to ensure that your blood sugar doesn’t harm your child. You might be at risk for the condition if you:

  • Have prediabetes
  • Have a close family member with type 2 diabetes
  • Had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Are obese
  • Are 25 years old or older
  • Had an unexplained stillbirth or miscarriage
  • Previously gave birth to a baby that weighed more than nine pounds


Stay Healthy

On your doctor’s advice, take a multivitamin with folic acid to protect your baby from neural tube defects. Make sure that you eat a variety of foods from many food groups that help you stay within your target glucose range. Talk to a specially trained dietician about creating a diabetes meal plan that works for you and stick with it.

Follow the recommendations of your care team when it comes to exercise. Physical activity is good for your overall health and can also help you keep your diabetes in check. Keep your activity level moderate but regular, and avoid strenuous or hazardous activities.

Ensure that any medications you’re taking are safe for your pregnancy. This includes any medications that you have to take for your diabetes if diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to keep your condition under control. Your specialists will also be able to help you monitor you and your baby’s health during your high-risk pregnancy, so make sure to go to all of your doctor’s visits and follow their instructions, even if you’re feeling fine.

Diabetes Management with Valley Perinatal Services

Managing diabetes requires a lot of work and research to get right. This is especially true when you’re pregnant and have diabetes, or hope to become pregnant one day. Your diet becomes crucial to not only your health but also the development of your baby. Staying well nourished while taking care not to harm your child can be done with some extra help. Throughout Arizona and Phoenix area, mothers with high-risk pregnancies as a result of diabetes can come to Valley Perinatal Services for customized diabetes and nutrition counseling and education before and during their pregnancies. Our staff is specially trained to handle high-risk pregnancies and can also perform screening and imaging tests to keep a closer eye on how your baby is developing as well as manage any risks that might come up. Talk with your Ob/Gyn about co-managing your pregnancy with Valley. Call 480.756.6000 or
contact us online.