Diabetes can be especially hard on women. The burden of diabetes on women is unique because the disease can affect both mothers and their unborn children.
Diabetes can cause difficulties during pregnancy such as a miscarriage or a baby born with birth defects. Women with diabetes are also more likely to have a heart attack, and at a younger age, than women without diabetes.
For women who do not currently have diabetes, pregnancy brings the risk of gestational diabetes. Based on recently announced diagnostic criteria for gestational diabetes, it is estimated that gestational diabetes develops in 18 percent of all pregnancies but disappears when a pregnancy is over.
Women who have had gestational diabetes or have given birth to a baby weighting more than 9 pounds are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
The prevalence of diabetes is at least 2 – 4 times higher among African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, and Asian/Pacific Islander women than among white women. The risk for diabetes also increases with age. Because of the increasing lifespan of women and the rapid growth of minority populations, the number of women in the United States at high risk for diabetes and its complications is increasing.
You have the good fortune to live when you do. Health care providers no longer discourage women with diabetes from becoming pregnant.
Women who manage their diabetes well during pregnancy can have a relatively normal pregnancy and give birth to a healthy baby.
We now know that the key to a healthy pregnancy for a woman with diabetes is keeping blood glucose (sugar) in the target range—both before she is pregnant and during her pregnancy. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes before getting pregnant, maintaining blood glucose levels and A1C close to normal just before and during the first trimester (the first three months) is critical to the proper development of the child while in the mother's womb. If blood glucose levels are kept near normal from the time of conception, the risk of birth defects in your baby can be greatly reduced to no higher than that of a woman without diabetes.
Along with managing blood glucose levels before and during pregnancy, you need a diabetes treatment plan that keeps meals, exercise, and insulin in balance. This plan will change as you get further into your pregnancy. You will also need to check your blood glucose often and keep a record of your results.
With your blood glucose in the target range and good medical care, your chances of a trouble-free pregnancy and a healthy baby are almost as good as they are for a woman without diabetes.