Pregnancy can be a beautiful experience for moms-to-be, full of excitement and anticipation. But it can also be fraught with worry and fear. For women diagnosed with type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes (diabetes in pregnancy), these worries can become even more of a challenge.
"Having diabetes is a full-time job. You have to check your blood sugar, and constantly think about what you're eating and when you're exercising," says Amy Valent, D.O., a perinatologist at the OHSU Center for Women's Health. "Having that on top of stresses during pregnancy is so challenging."
Dr. Valent specializes in caring for pregnant women with endocrine and metabolic disorders, including diabetes. After seeing so many patients struggle with this dual challenge, she is helping to launch a therapy group for these women.
The four-week therapy group will use mindfulness-based techniques to help women reduce their stress and gain the confidence and inner tools to manage the anxieties of pregnancy.
"I want women to know they aren't alone," says Dr. Valent. "This group is great because you are surrounded by other women who share similar challenges."
Supporting a healthy pregnancy with diabetes
No matter which type of diabetes you have, having good control of your blood sugar throughout your pregnancy is incredibly important. These health issues are linked with increased risk of birth defects, pre-eclampsia, miscarriage, and even stillbirth. But good blood sugar management, through a healthy diet and exercise, can minimize these risks.
If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you and your baby will benefit from having good blood sugar control even before you get pregnant. "I compare it to a garden," says Dr. Valent. "If you prime the soil prior to planting the seed, you'll have a much healthier crop than if you wait to fertilize and water once the plant is already growing."
Gestational diabetes: know your risk
Catching gestational diabetes as early as possible is an important way to decrease health risks for both pregnant women and their babies. If you have risk factors for diabetes, there's no reason to wait until the glucose test at the end of the second trimester to get screened. Talk to your provider about getting tested as soon as you know you're pregnant.
You may be at greater risk if you:
- Are overweight or obese
- Have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
- Have prediabetes
- Had gestational diabetes in a prior pregnancy
- Had a large baby (nine pounds or more) in a prior pregnancy
- Are African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native
Had gestational diabetes? Follow up with your primary care provider
No matter how long ago you had gestational diabetes. Even if you're done having children. Even if you have no symptoms and feel healthy. Get screened.
"There are so many women out there who have prediabetes and don't know it," Dr. Valent says. "Get checked. There's so much you can do to prevent type 2 diabetes. It's so important."