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What will my doctor check during a pre-pregnancy exam if I have diabetes?

Because you have diabetes, you need special care and advice from your diabetes doctor, nurse and healthcare team before you get pregnant. This "preconception counseling" is individualized for the needs of each woman. Ideally, preconception counseling should be a part of every routine diabetes clinic visit for all women of child-bearing age, starting at puberty, before a woman becomes sexually active. If you have diabetes, the following will be checked by your doctor during a pre-pregnancy exam:

  • Heart: Pregnancy puts an extra workload on your heart. Your doctor will want to check the health of your heart and your blood pressure.
  • Nerves: Your doctor should look for signs of damage to nerves (neuropathy). Such nerve damage can affect heart rate and blood pressure. Tell your doctor if you often feel dizzy when you stand up. Nerve damage can also affect your stomach. Tell your doctor if you often feel sick to your stomach, or sometimes vomit or have diarrhea. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, it may get worse during pregnancy.
  • Kidneys: In some women, kidney disease gets worse during pregnancy. Sometimes, these problems are only temporary during a pregnancy. If you have kidney problems now, be aware that pregnancy may be harder for you. Kidney disease increases the risk of high blood pressure in the second half of the pregnancy.
  • Eyes: See an eye doctor for a dilated eye exam. The doctor puts drops in your eyes. After a while, your pupils will be wide open. Your eye doctor then checks your eyes with a bright light. If you have diabetic eye disease (retinopathy), have it treated before you get pregnant. Eye disease may start or get worse while you are pregnant.
  • Medicines: Your doctor should review all the medicines you take.

If you are diabetic, it is important to discuss any plans for pregnancy with your physician before conceiving, if possible.

There are several things that a doctor will check during a pre-pregnancy examination for a person with diabetes. Diabetic patients may have increased risks of complications during pregnancy, and these risks can be reduced prior to pregnancy. It is very important to have blood sugar levels under good control before becoming pregnant. Blood tests such as a hemoglobin A1C can be checked to determine a diabetic patient's level of control. Immunizations may need to be updated prior to pregnancy in order to decrease the risks of infections to which pregnant and diabetic patients are prone. Drugs that are used to treat diabetes and its complications may need to be stopped or altered. This is in order to avoid any potential health hazards for the developing fetus. Your doctor may also counsel you on proper nutrition and exercise as well as other lifestyle changes to reduce your risks of pregnancy complications.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.