Your Health: Balancing diabetes and pregnancy

With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little-or-no insulin and patients can have blurry vision, frequent urination, and extreme thirst.
With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little-or-no insulin and patients can have blurry vision, frequent urination, and extreme thirst.
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 3:54 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - You might not know this, but up until a generation or two ago, women with type 1 diabetes were often advised to avoid getting pregnant and having children, because of the health risks to both mom and baby.

But medical advances have made it safe for these young women to have families, with careful planning.

For 25-year-old Elon Barnes, little Robert is the center of her world.

“He is just a happy little energetic baby,” Barnes said.

But when Barnes first learned she was pregnant, she knew she would have to work hard for his health and her own. Barnes was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 10 years ago.

“I had actually just learned about diabetes in my high school biology class,” she said.

With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little-or-no insulin and patients can have blurry vision, frequent urination, and extreme thirst.

“There’s not enough water in the world right now to quench this thirst.”

Diabetes specialist Dr. Rachael Oxman says it’s important for women to begin planning before becoming pregnant.

“The first trimester is a really tricky period in the pregnancy,” Dr. Oxman said. “That’s when babies form all of their organs and we want the baby to have a healthy spine and healthy heart and diabetes control directly contributes to these things.”

Dr. Oxman says patients should have an A1C, or average blood sugar level, of 6-6.5% or lower during the first trimester. She says women should not be afraid to take their insulin.

“It doesn’t cross the placenta. It doesn’t get to the baby.”

Barnes used a continuous glucose monitor, like this one, to keep a watchful eye on her blood sugar.

“I had to be a very well-behaved diabetic, to say the least.”

It was hard work that paid off with a normal delivery and a perfect baby boy.

Dr. Oxman says it’s important to find a pediatrician who is familiar with the needs of babies born to moms with type one. A baby’s pancreas, after delivery, needs a few days to self-regulate, so their blood sugars need careful monitoring.

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