Although I often struggle with maintaining consistent blood sugar levels, I do not suffer from diabetes. Because blood sugar is such an issue for me though, I often wonder what unforeseen effects diabetes can have on fertility and pregnancy. What I found was that pregnant women with type 1 diabetes are high-risk patients, and the most common problems they have are getting pregnant and staying pregnant. This is mainly tied to blood sugar levels.
Type 1 diabetes doesn’t actually affect fertility in the usual way. Women who are experiencing fertility problems usually have a condition or disease that specifically makes them unable to have children, or makes having children problematic. Type 1 diabetes in itself is not tied to fertility troubles. It’s high blood glucose levels that make conceiving and staying pregnant difficult. Usually, women who are experiencing trouble with fertility because of high blood sugar levels are either unaware that they have type 1 diabetes, or they are not managing their diabetes very well.
The most common fertility problem for women with type 1 diabetes and high blood sugar levels is a miscarriage. If you maintain your diabetes with insulin injections and keep a consistent healthy diet, you should have no trouble conceiving and carrying a child to full term without incident. That’s not to say that your pregnancy won’t be considered high-risk, however. For women with diabetes of any kind, it’s crucial that you find an obstetrician who is proficient in handling high-risk pregnancies and has cared for other pregnant women with diabetes in the past.
You also might want to find a dietician that can help you with meal planning through your pregnancy. Though you may have already had years of meal planning experience, finding a dietician is important because pregnancy can often mask the symptoms of high blood sugar. The diet that normally works for you may not be sufficient while you’re pregnant. Also, women who are treating their type 1 diabetes with insulin are at risk of low blood sugar levels as well, which can have its own dangers. If you have type 1 diabetes, the best thing you can do for your unborn child is to plan ahead. If you and your husband are planning to have a baby, watch your blood sugar levels carefully. If they are unstable during the time of conception, you can run the risk of having a miscarriage or birth defects, though chances of the latter happening have decreased over the years.
- Sjöberg, L., Pitkäniemi, J., Haapala, L., Kaaja, R., & Tuomilehto, J. (2013). Fertility in people with childhood-onset type 1 diabetes. Diabetologia, 56(1), 78-81.
- Living with diabetes: prenatal care. (n.d.). American Diabetes Association.
- Brucker, H. J. (2009, January 27). Diabetes and fertility. Trying to Conceive | Fertility and Infertility Help. Conceive Online.