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More care needed for women with diabetes to help plan for pregnancy

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Diabetes UK has called for more support for women with diabetes who become pregnant, as a new report has revealed that three quarters of them (75 per cent) have blood glucose levels in early pregnancy that put the health of the unborn child at risk.

Higher than recommended blood glucose levels

The National Pregnancy in Diabetes (NPID) audit looked at 2,537 women with diabetes who were pregnant in 2014 in England and Wales. It shows that 85 per cent of women with Type 1 diabetes and 64 per cent with Type 2 had higher than recommended blood glucose levels, which increases risk of stillbirth, neonatal death and babies being born with congenital abnormalities.

Importance of folic acid 

It also shows that half of women with Type 1 and two thirds of women with Type 2 are not taking folic acid when they become pregnant. It is important that women with diabetes who want to get pregnant take a higher dose of folic acid than women without the condition. This recommended dose can only be prescribed by a doctor or nurse and is not available over the counter. In addition to this, one in 10 women with Type 2 are taking medication when they become pregnant that is potentially harmful to the baby.Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “It is deeply worrying that so many women with diabetes do not have their condition under control during the early stages of pregnancy, as this is putting the health of the baby at risk.“The clear message of this report is that many women with diabetes are not getting the advice and support they need when it comes to planning to become pregnant and the stark fact is that in too many cases this is leading to tragic consequences such as death or disability of the baby with a third of babies born to mothers with diabetes needing intensive or specialist neonatal support.“The NHS needs to act urgently to make sure all women with diabetes, who might become pregnant, are aware of the risks of having high blood glucose levels in early pregnancy and are supported by specialist healthcare professionals to achieve good blood glucose control. It is also important that doctors and nurses review medications being taken by women with diabetes who want to become pregnant. With good planning and the right care and support in place, women with diabetes can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

'Need to plan'

“We also must get the message out to women with diabetes that it is really important that they need to plan and take the necessary steps before becoming pregnant to ensure the health of their unborn baby. This means that contraception is essential for women who are not planning to become pregnant, and women who are considering having a baby should speak to their diabetes team as early as possible so they can be supported in taking those all-important measures to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby.

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