The risks of Type 1 and 2 diabetes in pregnancy
When you are pregnant, the pregnancy hormones interfere with the way your body works, which makes it more difficult to control your blood glucose levels. This means that during the pregnancy you have an increased risk of some health problems, such as kidney or eye problems, neuropathy (nerve damage) and vascular disease (problems with the blood vessels). If you already have complications such as eye or kidney problems, these may get worse during the pregnancy. You are also more likely to have low or high blood pressure levels and hypos or hypers, with the extra risks that these carry.
You are at a higher risk of:
- Eye problems (Retinopathy)
- Kidney problems (Nephropathy)
- low or high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia
- premature birth
Your baby will be at higher risk of:
- a congenital disorder (4.8% compared with 2.2% for the wider population).
- stillbirth (around 1.6% compared with 0.5% for the wider population)
- dying in the early weeks of life (around 1% compared with 0.3% for the wider population).
Although these risks are real, they are still small and you can reduce them even further by controlling your blood glucose levels.
"Having the risks explained to me was ultimately my motivator to getting blood sugars perfect." Zoe, mum of one
We understand that it is not easy to read about these risks. But it is important that you know about them so that you can make informed decisions around your pregnancy.
A risk means there is a chance that something might happen. These things may not happen to you. But by knowing what the risks are, it can be easier to understand your healthcare team’s advice.
It may be harder than it sounds, but try to find a balance between understanding the risks while remembering that many women with diabetes have problem-free pregnancies.
Reducing the risks of diabetes complications in pregnancy
If you have diabetes, you will probably already be used to planning carefully to manage your glucose levels – but pregnancy will mean you need to increase the amount of time and effort you need to spend on controlling your diabetes. You will have more healthcare appointments. Friends who do not have diabetes may seem to have comparatively carefree pregnancies while you are monitoring your blood glucose levels and controlling your diet and exercise. If you find this difficult, you are not alone.
But the research shows that taking these extra steps can make a difference to your own health and that of your baby. It’s a lot to take on board, so find support where you can, and try to remember that this period will not last forever. If you want to speak to someone about how you are doing and feeling, try your GP, diabetes team, Diabetes UK (www.diabetes.org.uk) or check out the forums on www.diabetes.co.uk.
- NCC-WWCH (2015) Diabetes in pregnancy: Management of diabetes and its complications from preconception to the postnatal period NICE guideline 3, Methods, evidence and recommendations, Version 2.1, National Collaborating Centre for Women's and Children's Health
- HSCIC (2014) National Pregnancy in Diabetes Audit Report, England, Wales and the Isle of Man 2013, Health and Social Care Information Centre
If you have diabetes in pregnancy, you are at higher risk of pre-eclampsia.
There are two particular medical conditions associated with diabetes that can worsen during pregnancy: retinopathy (eye problems) and nephropathy (kidney problems).
Macrosomia is a difficulty associated with diabetes – in which the baby is large for their gestational age, often weighing more than 4.5kg at birth.
If you have type 1 or 2 diabetes in pregnancy you will get extra care.
You will need to manage your type 1 or 2 diabetes in pregnancy by checking your blood glucose levels and adjusting your treatment according to the results.
Many women with type 1 or 2 diabetes go on to have a healthy birth. But you are at higher risk of complications so your healthcare team will have recommendations for the birth of your baby.
If you have type 1 or 2 diabetes, you should to talk to your healthcare team if you are thinking about having a baby. There are some things you can do now to make your upcoming pregnancy safer.
The fact that you have type 1 or 2 diabetes in pregnancy does not mean that your baby will get it as a child. But they will have an increased risk of getting it later due to genetics.
Information and support for type 1 or 2 diabetes in pregnancy
ℹLast reviewed on September 1st, 2015. Next review date February 1st, 2016.