Diabetes is a serious health concern. About 9 out of 100 people (9 percent) in the U.S. have diabetes – a condition in which your body has too much sugar (called glucose) in the blood. Glucose is your body’s main source of fuel for energy. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. If your body does not produce insulin or cannot use it efficiently, then over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerve cells. You can develop diabetes at any time in your life, including during pregnancy.
There are three different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes happens most often in children and young adults but it can develop at any age. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. In this case, your body does not make insulin or can’t use it normally. You are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes if you are older, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, or do not exercise.
- Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. Seven out of every 100 pregnant women (7 percent) develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is tested for at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. It usually goes away after you give birth. However, if you have it in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in your next pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop diabetes later in life.
Managing your diabetes during pregnancy
If you have diabetes, it is very important that you control your blood sugar. High blood sugar can be harmful to your baby, especially during the first few weeks of pregnancy when the brain, heart, kidneys and lungs begin to form.
Your blood sugar is affected by pregnancy, by what you eat and drink, and how much physical activity you get. If you have preexisting diabetes (diabetes BEFORE pregnancy), what worked to control your blood sugar before you became pregnant, may not work as well during pregnancy.
Here are some things that you can do to have a healthy pregnancy:
- Go to all your prenatal care visits, even if you’re feeling fine.
- Follow your provider’s directions about how often to check your blood sugar. Call your provider if your blood sugar is too high or too low.
- Tell your provider about any medicine you take, even medicine that’s not related to your diabetes. Some medicines can be harmful during pregnancy, so your provider may need to change them to ones that are safer for you and your baby.
- If you don’t already have a registered dietician (RD), your provider can recommend one for you. An RD is a person specially trained in nutrition. An RD can help you learn what, how much and how often to eat to best control your diabetes. She can help you make meal plans and help you know the right amount of weight to gain during pregnancy. Check to see if your health insurance covers treatment from an RD.
- Do something active every day. With your health provider’s OK, being active every day can help you manage your diabetes.
Diabetes can be a challenge, especially when you are pregnant. But it is possible to manage it and have a healthy pregnancy.