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How is Diabetes in Pregnancy Treated?

By L. Burgoon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Being diabetic while carrying a child poses danger to the mother and fetus and could led to a high-risk pregnancy if not properly addressed. Treatment for diabetes in pregnancy depends on the form of the disease present: type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes. Treatment for type 1 diabetics involves adjusting insulin levels throughout the pregnancy and adhering to a personalized diet. Pregnant women with type 2 diabetes typically switch from pills to insulin treatments as well as maintain optimal blood sugar levels through diet. Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes in pregnancy first try to control the condition through diet and lifestyle changes, but sometimes must take medication.

Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, necessitates pre-conception planning in order to minimize risks and stabilize glucose levels. Once a type 1 diabetic becomes pregnant, her insulin levels will fluctuate as the fetus develops. Treatment for type 1 diabetes in pregnancy therefore entails monitoring blood sugar levels more closely and adjusting insulin intake as needed. Some women must be hospitalized for the readjustment if the glucose readings shift too much. Others can quickly address low blood sugar by ingesting glucose gels during pregnancy.

Diet also is vital for treatment of type 1 diabetes in pregnancy. Although diabetic pregnant women still must take insulin, changes in diet can prevent the need to use additional medication to protect the health of the mother and the fetus. Nutritionists typically create a personalized diet for pregnant type 1 diabetics that adjusts throughout the nine-month term to meet the baby and mother’s changing needs.

Treatment during pregnancy for type 2 diabetes, also called adult onset diabetes, usually includes modifying or switching medications. Physicians may recommend that women who take pills to control the condition switch to insulin because of lower complication risks with the latter. Women who controlled their type 2 diabetes prior to conception with diet and lifestyle approaches sometimes need to take insulin throughout the pregnancy instead. Treatment plans also call for increased blood sugar monitoring during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes, a pregnancy-induced form of the disease, usually is discovered in the sixth or seventh month. A doctor may generally first try to treat the condition with lifestyle changes, including a strict diet. A nutritionist can devise a personalized diet and exercise plan for the pregnant woman that takes blood sugar levels, stage of gestation, and medical history into account. The woman then closely monitors her blood sugar levels for several weeks. Medication — usually insulin injection — is called for when glucose levels do not normalize with the prescribed diet and exercise.

Diabetes in pregnancy should be treated very seriously. Left unaddressed, it can cause birth defects, miscarriages, and toxins in the blood. All forms of diabetes in pregnancy also pose the risk of large babies, which complicate births. Women previously diagnosed with type 1 or 2 diabetes should devise preliminary treatment plans with their physician before becoming pregnant. Those with gestational diabetes should immediately follow prescribed treatments to minimize associated risks.

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