If you have diabetes, you are at risk for pregnancy and childbirth complications. Diabetes may also affect the health of your unborn baby, increasing the risk of birth defects. Specialists at the Penn Medicine Perinatal Diabetes Program provide expert care to protect the health of you and your child.
About Diabetes and Pregnancy
Diabetes occurs when your body doesn't produce enough insulin. This hormone moves sugar (glucose) into cells for energy. When you have diabetes, glucose stays in the blood, causing high blood sugar.
Fluctuating blood sugar levels during pregnancy can be dangerous. Our experts treat pregnant women with all types of diabetes:
- Gestational: Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. You may be able to control blood sugar through dietary changes. Some women need medications.
- Type 1: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when your body makes little (if any) insulin. You may receive a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis during childhood. This condition requires daily blood glucose monitoring and insulin injections. You may give yourself insulin shots or use an insulin pump that delivers insulin through a small tube beneath the skin.
- Type 2: Type 2 diabetes typically develops during adulthood. Your body makes too little insulin or is no longer able to properly use the insulin it produces. This condition often requires daily monitoring and medication.
Penn Perinatal Diabetes Program: Why Choose Us?
The Perinatal Diabetes Program is available at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and Pennsylvania Hospital. We offer:
Dedicated team of pregnancy and diabetes experts
You receive personalized care from maternal-fetal medicine specialists who have additional education and training in diabetes management. Maternal-fetal medicine doctors, or perinatologists, are OB-GYNs who specialize in high-risk pregnancies.
All of the specialists on your team are experienced and knowledgeable in both pregnancy and diabetes care. Team members include:
- High-risk pregnancy doctors
- Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (CDCES)®
- Social workers
We offer preconception counseling to help you achieve your best health before you conceive. It's important to keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range before, during and after pregnancy.
- Remote blood sugar monitoring using portable glucose meters (finger sticks) or continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) to keep levels healthy while you try to conceive
- Medication review to make treatment safer during pregnancy
- Nutrition counseling to improve blood sugar levels and promote good health
Specialized prenatal diabetes services
We monitor your health closely throughout pregnancy. Our services include:
- Nutrition support and counseling
- Pregnancy and fetal growth monitoring, including ultrasounds, fetal echocardiograms and other tests
- Weekly blood glucose monitoring through our patient portal and ongoing communication with your OB-GYN
- Remote monitoring using CGMs and web-based programs
Diabetes care during childbirth
Women with diabetes often have large babies. But this doesn't necessarily mean you need a cesarean section. We consider all health risks and factors, including your wishes, when developing a birth plan. During a vaginal delivery, we may use techniques to shorten childbirth and keep you and your baby safe.
The physical stress of labor can raise blood sugar levels. Frequent blood glucose monitoring using CGMs or finger-stick glucose checks in the labor and delivery room allow us to keep an eye on your numbers. We quickly administer insulin or glucose as needed.
Advanced care for newborns
Your baby may have low or high blood sugar at birth. This condition is temporary. It doesn't mean your baby has diabetes. It can take a few days for the body to regulate blood sugar levels. Until then, your baby may receive care at our level 3 neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Experts from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) provide care in our NICUs.
Postpartum diabetes services
After childbirth, we monitor your blood sugar levels in the hospital to ensure numbers return to a healthy range. If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, we help you make the transition to your endocrinologist (diabetes specialist) for ongoing care.
Gestational diabetes increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future. We complete a postpartum blood sugar test four to 12 weeks after childbirth. Depending on the findings, we may refer you to a specialist at the Penn Medicine Rodebaugh Diabetes Center. U.S. News & World Report rates the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania/Penn Presbyterian among the best in the country for diabetes care.
Request an Appointment
To request an appointment, please call 800-789-7366 or complete our online form.