Pregnancy is a simultaneously uniquely and challenging experience for anyone, but women with diabetes will have to weigh up a wealth of additional considerations. Diabetes, be it type 1 or type 2, can make pregnancy a more complicated time for both mother and baby. Fluctuations in blood sugar levels, for instance, can pose risks such as birth defects or a larger-than-average baby, leading to potential complications during delivery.
While these concerns might sound intimidating, it’s entirely possible to manage them. By taking proactive measures, seeking timely medical advice, and making informed decisions, women with diabetes can look forward to a healthy pregnancy. If you’re currently battling diabetes but also hoping to conceive, the right information will help you counter the difficulties your condition poses. Let’s explore some essential pregnancy planning advice you’ll want to keep in mind during your journey.
Get Pre-Conception Counselling
If you want to embark on the journey of motherhood with diabetes, you’ll benefit especially from specialised guidance. Pre-conception counselling sets the stage for a healthy pregnancy, where you and your doctor can discuss your specific health scenario. This will help you understand potential risks and get personalised advice tailored to your unique needs.
Furthermore, engaging with specialists helps clarify any concerns or doubts you might have before trying to conceive, so that you understand how diabetes can impact pregnancy outcomes from conception to delivery. Counselling sessions often address topics such as optimal blood sugar levels during pregnancy, the effect of pregnancy on diabetes, and how to adjust your diabetes management plan. With this knowledge, you lay the groundwork for a smooth and low-risk pregnancy journey.
Review Your Medication
Not all the diabetes medication that you currently use may be safe to take while pregnant. Some can potentially be harmful to the developing baby, especially during the first trimester. Hence, you’ll need to go over your medicines with a healthcare provider to identify what’s suitable and what you may need to replace for the time being.
Many healthcare professionals typically recommend insulin as the primary mode of blood sugar control for pregnant women. This is because insulin is a hormone that the body naturally produces; it also doesn’t cross the placenta, meaning it won’t reach the baby. Switching to or adjusting insulin can take some getting used to, especially if you weren’t on it previously, but if your doctor recommends it, it’s probably the best course of action for both you and your child.
Consult with a Dietitian
Diet plays a pivotal role in diabetes management and its significance only magnifies during pregnancy. It’s not just about managing blood sugar levels, but also making sure that both you and your baby receive the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and development. Consider consulting a professional dietitian for a more structured approach. They can guide you through creating a balanced diet plan, taking into account the unique demands of pregnancy and the requirements of diabetes management.
Consistent carbohydrate consumption is a fundamental principle in the dietary management of diabetes. During pregnancy, hormones can cause insulin resistance to increase, so a well-planned, consistent carbohydrate intake can help achieve optimum blood glucose control. A dietitian can also provide insights into managing morning sickness while maintaining stable blood sugars, tackling food aversions, and choosing the most nutrient-dense foods possible.
Take Folic Acid
Among the many vitamins and minerals crucial during pregnancy, folic acid is especially important for women with diabetes. It plays a vital role in the early development of the baby’s neural tube, which becomes the brain and spine. Getting the right amount of folic acid can help prevent your child from developing major neural tube defects in utero.
For the general population, the recommendation is usually around 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, starting at least one month before conception and continuing through the first trimester. However, women with diabetes might be advised a higher dosage due to the increased risk factors. As always, speak with your healthcare provider about the correct dosage tailored to your needs and start taking supplements well in advance of trying to conceive.
Attend Routine Screenings
Routine medical screenings become an even more integral part of the journey for pregnant women with diabetes. Regular eye exams are vital to check for changes in vision and, more critically, to monitor for diabetic retinopathy, a condition where high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina.
In addition, regular kidney function tests can ensure that diabetes hasn’t led to any adverse kidney complications. Given that pregnancy puts additional strain on the kidneys, women with diabetes need to be especially vigilant about their kidney health. Lastly, don’t overlook blood pressure monitoring. Hypertension can introduce even more complications during pregnancy—and those with diabetes have a higher risk of hypertension—so you’ll have to be extra careful to keep your blood pressure within the recommended range. Utilising relaxation techniques, maintaining a balanced diet, avoiding excessive salt intake, and staying physically active within your doctor’s guidelines can all contribute to better blood pressure management during pregnancy.
Approaching a pregnancy with diabetes might seem daunting, but with informed preparation and proactive care, it’s entirely manageable. By arming yourself with knowledge and surrounding yourself with the right support, you’re taking the necessary steps towards a healthier pregnancy and a brighter future for both you and your child.