9 Facts About Childbirth With Type 1 Diabetes

by Ginger Vieira Health Writer & Patient Advocate

It wasn’t too long ago that little girls and young women diagnosed with type 1 diabetes were told they would never or should never pursue pregnancy. Today, women with type 1 diabetes are giving birth to adorable, healthy, happy babies. Still, pregnancy with type 1 diabetes is a bit more complex and challenging than your average pregnancy. Here’s what to know so you are prepared for the big day:

Pregnant woman talking with her doctor.
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Not all hospitals have experience with CGMs

A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a critical part of maintaining tight blood sugar control during pregnancy, and yet, they are still fairly new to the obstetrics world. Depending on your hospital, you may be one of the first women to wear a CGM during her pregnancy and during the delivery. During the second trimester, be sure to start the conversation with your OB team about having the proper paperwork that allows you to wear your CGM on delivery day.

Low glucose reading on blood glucose monitor.
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The hospital may be worried about hypoglycemia

One of the most frustrating parts of your child’s birth may be the hospital’s reluctance to give you enough insulin. Despite constantly warning you throughout your pregnancy to achieve near-perfect blood sugars, nurses and doctors seem to panic when they see what that looks like in real life, hour-by hour, to attain those tight numbers. Their first priority is avoiding hypoglycemia, despite that your first priority is trying to constantly be the “perfect” pregnant diabetic.

Microphone, speak up concept.
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You will need to speak-up for yourself — repeatedly

You will have to speak up for yourself if you know you need more insulin to ensure your blood sugar is in a healthy range during the hours before baby arrives. But you’ll likely need to speak up for yourself at other times too. Advocating for yourself (and your baby) is a must. Remember, though, that speaking firmly and clearly will likely be more effective than yelling when you’re trying to express your diabetes needs to your team.

Due date circled on calendar.
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A “birth plan” is just a wish

Plenty of women, diabetic or not, set out with powerful intentions to give birth to their child vaginally and naturally. But the reason this all usually takes place in a hospital is because things can get complicated quickly. What’s most important is that you and your baby are healthy and safe. You can create your birth plan and review it with your partner and your doctor, but remember that there are so many factors you have absolutely no control over when it comes to the big day.

Mother and newborn minutes after cesarean birth.
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Delivering your baby via C-section is just as amazing and special

The size of your baby isn’t the only reason a C-section might be suggested or deemed as the safest route. It’s easy to assume that having a C-section won’t carry with it that same miraculous feeling of giving birth and meeting your child, but it truly is just as incredible. When they lay your brand new little peanut in your arms, you won’t care one bit how he or she arrived, you’ll just be grateful that the baby is safe and healthy.

Mother and child moments after birth.
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You should get to hold your baby immediately like any other mother

Unless there is something clearly wrong with your baby, he or she will be in your arms within a minute or two after birth, whether or not you have diabetes. All babies will then get standard tests of their heart rate, breathing, and body temperature. Their first blood sugar won’t be tested until two or three hours after they’re born.

Doctor checking pregnant patients blood sugar.
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Hospital lancets hurt

If you haven’t been hospitalized since your diabetes diagnosis, you probably don’t remember just how painfully barbaric reusable lancet devices are. Compared to the lancets and their devices we use at home, hospital lancets hurt much more and leave small yet remarkable wounds. When you’re at the hospital awaiting the arrival of your baby, you’ll be checking your blood sugar a lot (even if you have a CGM, too). Bring your own lancet device and your own lancets!

Newborn being held by father in hospital nursery.
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Everyone is going to comment on how big your baby is

From the moment you become pregnant to well after your baby is born, everyone with some type of medical degree (and probably your mother-in-law, too) is going to remind you just how big your baby is — even if their size is perfectly normal. When a non-diabetic woman gives birth to an 8.5-pound baby, it’s normal. When a diabetic woman gives birth to that 8.5-pound baby, it’s huge and it’s definitely “because she has diabetes.” Tune it out.

Mother holding newborn at home.
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It’s worth it!

The amount of stress, work, endless finger-pricks, constant carb-counting, and non-stop effort to ensure your blood sugars are as healthy as possible for that growing baby is no small feat — but it’s worth it!

Ginger Vieira
Meet Our Writer
Ginger Vieira

Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease since 1999, and fibromyalgia since 2014. She is the author of Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes, Dealing with Diabetes Burnout, Emotional Eating with Diabetes, and Your Diabetes Science Experiment. Ginger contributes regularly for Diabetes Strong, Healthline, HealthCentral, DiabetesDaily, EverydayHealth, and her YouTube channel. Her background includes a B.S. in professional writing, certifications in cognitive coaching, Ashtanga yoga, and personal training, with several records in drug-free powerlifting. She lives in Vermont with her husband, their two daughters, and their dog, Pedro.