In the past, women with diabetes have been discouraged from having babies. It was often considered too dangerous for both mother and child. With increased medical care available, a diabetic woman can now have a chance of planning a pregnancy with the help of her doctor.
The doctor will want to do several tests to help determine if the woman is healthy enough to have a child. An important test is the 24-hour urine test. This test is necessary to check for kidney complications of diabetes. Protein in the urine is one sign of trouble that can be picked up by the test. Since pregnancy places a heavy strain on the kidneys, it is imperative that the kidneys be in good shape.
Another important test is for cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These are important for several reasons. High levels can cause heart problems. A pregnant woman’s heart will be under stress from supporting the fetus without the added burden of heart problems brought on by cholesterol problems. Having high triglycerides can also raise blood sugar levels for pregnant diabetics.
Although a woman’s eye health will not affect the baby, it is important to be sure that her eyes are not being damaged by her diabetes. Doctors check for glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. This is necessary because if these diseases have begun to take hold, a pregnancy can make them worse.
When the tests come in, it is good to have a long discussion with the doctor. The doctor will discuss the results of the tests and how they affect the woman. If the tests lead the doctor to believe that the woman is in good enough health to have a baby, the next step will be to talk about getting ready for the pregnancy.
The doctor will check the woman’s weight and determine how much she has to gain or lose to get to her ideal body weight. This is important because the diabetic woman will have all kinds of complications during pregnancy if she is not at her correct weight.
If she is too heavy, she will have higher blood pressure, higher blood sugar, and other problems. If she is too thin, she may deliver a baby with low birth weight. Weight will be an ongoing subject for a diabetic woman from before the pregnancy through well after.
Blood sugar will need to be monitored closely during the time a woman is trying to get pregnant. It is very important, because high levels can lead miscarriages. In early pregnancy, high blood sugar can also cause birth defects.
The doctor will also oversee the diabetic woman’s medication if she is planning to get pregnant. The doctor may need to make changes. Insulin needs change with pregnancy. A woman who takes oral medications will probably need to be put on insulin instead during the pregnancy. This will help protect the baby.
With careful planning, there is no reason why many diabetic women cannot become new mothers. As long as blood sugar levels, complications, and medications are kept under control, a healthy pregnancy is possible.