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Diabetes and Pregnancy: Keeping Mom and Baby Safe

February 27, 2024

Pregnant woman speaking with her doctor via a telehealth visit.

Having a baby is an exciting time in life. But it can also be stressful, especially if you have diabetes. Whether you’re managing type 2 or gestational diabetes, working with a medical specialist can help guide both mother and baby towards a healthy delivery.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between six and nine percent of women develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. For half of these women, gestational diabetes becomes type 2 diabetes after delivery.

“It’s fairly common for gestational diabetes to develop into type 2 diabetes after pregnancy,” says Dyese Taylor, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at Atlantic Health System. “Whether you have type 2 diabetes before conceiving — or you develop it during pregnancy — it’s important to work with a doctor to manage it, such as a high-risk maternal-fetal specialist or an endocrinologist.”

Work With a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist

Your doctor will start by testing your blood sugar levels to know if you’re within a healthy range. An A1C is the best measurement of your blood glucose (sugar) over a three-month period. If it is below 6, you are at lower risk for complications. If your blood sugar reading is higher than 6.5, complications can arise for both you and your baby.

“Before and during pregnancy, we monitor blood glucose levels and adjust your treatment plan so you can maintain good blood sugar control,” says Dr. Taylor. “Having high blood sugar at the time of conception can increase the baby’s risk of birth defects, complications, preeclampsia, and even preterm birth.”

Take Nutrition Seriously

Managing diabetes in pregnancy also requires stricter glucose control. A well-balanced diet and regular exercise can help in achieving this goal. A registered dietitian may be helpful in creating meal plans tailored to your nutritional needs and your baby’s development.

“A consultation with a registered dietitian is required for all our patients with diabetes,” says Dr. Taylor. “Our nutritionists consider your pre-pregnancy BMI, weeks of gestation, and caloric needs of proteins, fats, and carbs to create your meal plan. This meeting is one of the most important things you can do before or during your pregnancy.”

Commit to Proper Medication and Monitoring

  • Insulin and other diabetes medications may need to be adjusted during your pregnancy to protect the fetus.
  • Ultrasound imaging helps track the fetus’ growth and screens for congenital anomalies.
  • A glucose monitor helps measure your blood sugar since some fetuses are more sensitive to higher glucose levels than others.

Seek Postpartum Care

Depending on the type of diabetes you have, it is wise to continue to monitor your sugars after delivery. It’s also worth considering breastfeeding your baby. Research shows that most new mothers with type 2 diabetes choose not to breastfeed. However, breastfeeding reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes postpartum and helps control your glucose levels.

“Managing a high-risk pregnancy is never a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s a personalized care plan for each mother and baby,” says Dr. Taylor. “Our goal is to minimize the long-term effects diabetes can have on the fetus’ risk for childhood obesity and early onset cardiovascular disease. When we can control glucose levels, we increase the likelihood of a healthy baby developing into a healthy adult.”

  • Pregnancy
  • Healthy Living