Diabetes and Pregnancy

Women coping with diabetes and pregnancy must undergo more testing and examinations than must pregnant women who are not diabetic. Insulin levels need constant monitoring, as do diet and blood pressure.

Due to lack of necessary insulin or the body’s inability to use the insulin it produces, diabetes occurs as a result of the body’s inability to convert starches and sugars into carbohydrates for energy purposes. Since this extra sugar is allowed to continue collecting in the body, damage to the heart, eyes, kidneys and other physiological components can happen unless insulin levels are kept regulated which facilitates transformation of sugar into useable energy.

Whether diabetes, either Type I or Type II, was a preexisting condition or it developed because of pregnancy, called gestational diabetes, complications will arise if insulin levels are unmonitored and if there is a lack of proper eating habits. Health issues emerging from uncontrolled diabetes during pregnancy include any of the following:


A serious condition in which high blood pressure, an excess of protein in urine, an abnormally high amount of enzymes, which reduces reduce liver functioning, and a low platelet count can force a premature delivery and dangerous health issues, such as pulmonary edema, seizures and shock, for the mother.

Preeclampsia resulting from diabetes and pregnancy may occur anytime past the 20th week of a pregnancy and strikes women who have autoimmune disorders or blood vessel difficulties. Other risks precipitating preeclampsia are obesity, first pregnancy, being 35 or older and having a history of hypertension, kidney problems and diabetes.

Symptoms of preeclampsia involve:

  • Severe edema, that is, swelling of face, hands and ankles
  • Persistent headache
  • Vomiting
  • Temporary blindness and other vision issues
  • Decrease in urinary output

Only one procedure alleviates preeclampsia, and that is delivery of the baby. If a pregnancy is under 30 weeks and the preeclampsia is not life-threatening, the physician will order bed rest, dietary changes to reduce salt intake and increase water consumption and sometimes medication to keep blood pressure from spiking. For women experiencing preeclampsia but who are less than seven months pregnant, steroid injections may be prescribed in order to expedite lung development in the fetus.

Preeclampsia usually subsides six to eight weeks after delivery, but women may experience worsening blood pressure the first 72 hours after delivery.

Premature Birth, Miscarriage or Stillbirth

Blood glucose levels that are not effectively controlled may cause complications leading to miscarriages or premature births. Although the most common reason for miscarriage is an abnormal chromosome count, diabetes and pregnancy represent a problematic issue which pregnant mothers and physicians must preemptively and aggressively treat in order to prevent birth and fetal problems.

During the last 12 to 18 weeks of a pregnancy complicated by diabetes, a condition sometimes develops called macrosomia, which produces an excessively heavy newborn that is over nine pounds and increases the risk of having a C-section or, worse, a stillbirth. This is because newborns affected by Type I, Type II or gestational diabetes have a good chance of suffering hypoglycemia, elevated bilirubin rates and dangerously low calcium levels.

Birth Defects

According to a 2011 Associated Press report regarding governmental research into diabetes and pregnancy, women who were diabetic during their pregnancy are up to four times more likely than non-diabetic women to have an infant with a birth defect. Spine deformities, missing kidneys and heart defects were among the most common types of defects seen in these births. Results of the study were based on birth records documented between 1997 and 2003 in ten states at several different hospitals.

Having a Healthy Pregnancy with Diabetes

Experiencing good health and delivering a healthy baby is entirely possible when preventive medicine is used. Diabetic pregnant women should frequently monitor sugar levels, see a doctor regularly, eat only foods comprising a diabetic diet and take any medications as instructed to prevent any detrimental medical condition resulting from pregnancy and diabetes.


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