If you’re having diabetes, and planning to have a baby, you’re probably worried about the risks and dangers involved for both, baby and you. Well, the good news is that it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a normal baby, provided you cultivate a healthy lifestyle and strictly monitor your sugar levels all along your pregnancy. High blood sugar during the first trimester – when the baby’s organs are forming – can increase the risk of birth defects and miscarriage.
Here’s everything you should know if you’re planning to get pregnant with diabetes
Talk with your health consultant
This is the first and most important thing you must do, even before you try to conceive. If you’re on oral medications, the doctor will review them and check if they’re safe to continue during pregnancy. Based on your sugar levels, he may either change your medicines or recommend starting on insulin to treat your condition before you conceive.
Your health consultant may also check your blood pressure, and if needed, put you on a medication to keep your blood pressure in check. High blood pressure during pregnancy can harm both you and your baby and lead to a condition called preeclampsia – a pregnancy complication that could be life-threatening, if not treated in time.
That’s why it’s doubly important to make sure that your blood pressure is well within the normal range from the very beginning.
Keep a firm check on your blood sugar levels
It is imperative to keep your diabetes under control before conception. Even with advanced medical treatments, birth defects are still common in diabetic pregnancies. Your baby’s brain, spinal cord, heart and other organs begin forming in the early weeks of pregnancy –even before you know you are pregnant. Having poor blood sugar control, can increase the risk of birth defects – those particularly associated with the brain, heart and spinal cord.
Other risks for the baby, when the mother’s blood sugar levels are poorly controlled
· Premature birth
· Overweight or underweight
· Low blood sugar levels at birth
· Calcium deficiency at birth
· Difficulty in breathing at birth due to delayed lung maturity
Risks for the mother:
· Retina and kidney complications
· A difficult vaginal delivery caused due to baby being overweight
· Gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia
· Premature labour, caused due to excess amniotic fluid
Keeping your blood sugar levels in the healthy range can make a big difference to your pregnancy. Studies have shown that the rate of birth defects decrease drastically, if an expectant mom gets proper guidance and help.
Watch your diet
As a diabetic, you may already have a diet chart that includes plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains. You can continue with this while preparing for pregnancy. But despite this, if you’re still having trouble keeping your sugar levels under control, you could get help from a professional dietician who can draw out a special diet plan for you.
Stay active and maintain a healthy weight
Before becoming pregnant, overweight women must achieve to reach a healthy weight (ideally a BMI of 18.5-25). This is particularly important for women with type 2 diabetes.
You can make exercise a part of your daily routine. Cycling, walking and swimming are great choices as they are low-impact exercises. But before you start on any of these, do make sure to get a green signal from your health consultant.
Any kind of physical activity impacts blood sugar. If you’re on insulin, check your blood sugar before and after an activity. You might need to eat a light snack before exercising to help prevent low blood sugar.
Get your dose of folic acid
Folic Acid is an important vitamin which helps greatly in the prevention of birth defects related to the brain and spinal cord.
Natural sources of folic acid include green leafy vegetables, dark yellow fruits & vegetables, beans, peas & nuts. In addition to including them in your diet, it is recommended that women preparing for pregnancy, in particular diabetic women should start on a folic acid supplement of 5mg per day at least three months prior to conception and continue it during pregnancy – at least for three months, or as long as your doctor prescribes it for.
Take care of your eyes and kidneys
Diabetics are at a higher risk of developing eye and kidney complications. The risks are higher during pregnancy. So its very important that diabetic women planning to get pregnant get their eyes and kidney function tested before conception. If you haven’t had your eyes tested in the last six months, it is advisable that you visit your ophthalmologist to get a thorough check done.
Tips & Tricks
Dieting during pregnancy can cause abnormalities and a low birth weight in your baby; therefore your ideal weight should be reached before pregnancy.
Taking folic acid in its natural form before pregnancy can prevent serious birth defects. You can find them in fruits and vegetables, fortified cereals, and enriched bread products. If you’re planning to conceive, you should consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day.
If you are on contraceptive pills, it could take a few months before your periods are regular and you begin ovulating again. It usually is best to stop the pills at the end of a cycle to avoid mid-cycle bleeding.
Before buying a home pregnancy test kit, be sure to check the expiry date. For accurate results, take the test after one week after the missed period; testing very early, can give you negative results.
Green tea and orange pekoe (popularly known as 'regular') are considered to be excellent fertility enhancers. Research has shown that women who regularly drink tea, increase their chance of conception.