If you have type 2 diabetes, you know it can take extra effort to keep your health on track. On top of handling the emotional reality that you have a life-altering condition, you’re tasked with the not-insignificant job of keeping your blood sugar in check, which can involve being particularly mindful about what you eat and taking medication. That’s plenty on its own—so if you’re thinking about becoming a parent or you’re already pregnant, you might be wondering how in the world you’ll take care of yourself plus a growing fetus.
We won’t sugarcoat it: Pregnancy can definitely change how your type 2 diabetes affects you, and high blood sugar can also potentially pose issues for a fetus’s health. Thankfully, working closely with your care team can help you have a safe pregnancy. Below are three things anyone with type 2 diabetes should know when they’re expecting, according to experts.
Your blood sugar will rise when you’re pregnant—and it’s not your fault.
If you have type 2 diabetes (or type 1, for that matter), you can expect your blood sugar levels to rise during pregnancy. Basically, this is because a growing fetus makes hormones that block the effect of insulin, the hormone that helps regulate the amount of glucose (a.k.a. sugar) in your blood.
You’ll likely have to ramp up your blood sugar control measures when you become pregnant, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. If you weren’t on medication for your diabetes before pregnancy—for instance, if you were solely managing your blood sugar through your diet—you might need to start on meds to boost those efforts. Or, if you’re taking insulin, you might have to increase your dose as the pregnancy progresses. “I tell [many] patients, ‘At the end of this pregnancy, you will be on twice as much medication to control your blood sugar,’” M. Sean Esplin, MD, a maternal fetal medicine physician with Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, tells SELF.
Thanks to the gradual increase in those hormones that help a fetus develop, your blood sugar levels will also rise throughout your pregnancy, with the highs peaking just before you give birth, Diana Racusin, MD, a maternal fetal medicine physician with UTHealth Houston, tells SELF. Right after you deliver the baby and the placenta (which is responsible for the uptick in those hormones), your body will usually go back to your baseline blood sugar levels, so you’ll likely require less medication postpartum than you needed during your pregnancy1.
Yes, high blood sugar can be harmful to you and your pregnancy.
Elevated blood sugar can mess with your well-being whether or not you’re pregnant, but if you are, it can up your risk of long-term health concerns, including heart disease and stroke. According to Dr. Esplin, people whose diabetes has already caused nerve damage, eye damage, or abnormal kidney function may have more severe symptoms during pregnancy, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.