What is low blood sugar during pregnancy?
Can a low blood sugar or hypoglycemia affect my pregnancy? How do I know if I have a drop in the blood sugar levels?
What should I do when I experience low blood sugar?
These are some of the questions that will come into your mind if you discover you have low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.
While diabetes and high blood sugar levels are always discussed, low blood sugar level or hypoglycemia as it is called is something that many are not aware of. Low blood sugar during pregnancy is common than you think and can happen to anyone. Proper awareness on this topic is essential for the health of both the mom and the baby.
Let’s look into detail about low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, its symptoms, causes, and remedies.
What is low blood sugar or hypoglycemia during pregnancy?
Our body requires energy to function. The food we eat is converted to glucose, which is a type of sugar. This glucose that enters the bloodstream is converted into energy by a hormone called Insulin. The cells in our body use this energy to function.
Sometimes, it happens that there is not enough sugar available in the blood to be processed by the insulin hormone present in the body. When there is a scarcity of blood sugar, insulin can’t convert it to energy. Now when our cells are not getting enough energy to function properly, it can lead to complications. This condition in which blood sugar level is lower than normal for the body to function properly is called hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
Normal blood sugar range while fasting is between 70-100mg/dl for pregnant women. So a blood sugar level below 70mg/dl is considered low blood sugar during pregnancy.
How common is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is more common in pregnant women and hence should not be ignored. At any time, a pregnant woman may experience low blood sugar, which has to be treated right away.
What causes hypoglycemia during pregnancy?
Hypoglycemia occurs when there is not enough food to balance insulin’s blood sugar lowering effect and having too much of the hormone insulin in the blood.
Hypoglycemia can occur in pregnant women who have preexisting type 1 or type 2 diabetes or in women who have gestational diabetes which is usually diagnosed during the second trimester of pregnancy. It rarely occurs in pregnant women without diabetes
If you are diabetic: A low blood sugar condition can happen while pregnant especially if you have developed gestational diabetes or already have diabetes before pregnancy.
Now you may ask how diabetes, i.e., a high sugar level, can be a cause of low blood sugar level problems!!
The medications you use to control gestational diabetes is the culprit here. If you are taking medicines like Insulin or a type of diabetes pill such as Glyburide, the production of insulin in the body increases. More Insulin hormone means more consumption of blood sugar which can lead to depletion of sugar in our bloodstream causing hypoglycemia.
This is one reason why those with gestational diabetics are more likely to get hypoglycemia.
Must read: 16 FAQs on Gestational Diabetes Answered
Non-diabetic hypoglycemia: Any pregnant women can experience low blood sugar levels during pregnancy irrespective of whether they have being diagnosed with gestational diabetes or not.
You can also have low blood sugar during pregnancy –
- If you delay or skip a meal
- Eat too little
- Exercise more than usual
- Drink alcohol on an empty stomach (drinking is not advised during pregnancy and breastfeeding)
- Excessive insulin in the body due to some medication
- Not eating enough carbohydrates
- Critical illness such as severe hepatitis.
Can any condition increase your chances of hypoglycemia during pregnancy?
Certain conditions can increase your chances of getting hypoglycemia during pregnancy. Below are some of the conditions-
- You are on diabetes medication
- You are alcoholic
- You have certain hormone deficiencies
What are the symptoms if one is experiencing low blood sugar?
Low blood sugar occurs suddenly, however; the intensity may vary in different women and may also vary by age. You should know the signs of low blood sugar so that you can take preventive measures. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Cold sweat
- Difficulty paying attention
- Feeling hungry always
- Sudden moodiness
- Feeling anxious or nervous or crying for no reason
- Tingling sensation around the lips and tongue
- Pale skin color
- Rapid heartbeat
- Clumsy or jerky movements
It can also occur during sleep. The following are the symptoms of having low blood sugar at night
- Having nightmares
- Damp clothes and sheets from sweat
- Feeling tired or irritable after waking
- Seizures or being difficult to arouse from sleep
Remember, if you ignore the symptoms of hypoglycemia for too long, it may so happen that you may lose consciousness, as your brain needs glucose to function properly. You should be aware of the signs of hypoglycemia as untreated hypoglycemia can lead to many health complications.
How can Hypoglycemia affect the growing fetus?
Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia can result in developmental issues, abnormalities and lower birth weight in babies.
In order to avoid any developmental issues in babies, it is essential that mothers are aware of the risks of having low blood sugar and the remedies to maintain adequate sugar levels in pregnancy.
Can low blood sugar during pregnancy affect the mother’s health?
Hypoglycemia is a common concern during early pregnancy, especially at night. The symptoms, however, may not appear or mostly get ignored at 50 to 60 mg/dL blood sugar level. Hypoglycemia ignored at this stage can go worse and get to lower values like 30 to 40 mg/dL. With such lower values, the pregnant woman can experience seizures or even coma.
Also, if left untreated the safety of mother and fetus is in danger.
How is low blood sugar during pregnancy diagnosed?
If you are diabetic, your doctor will ask you to check your blood sugar levels frequently and also watch out for hypoglycemia symptoms. Your doctor will keep a watch on your health history and do needful tests to find out if you are having hypoglycemia.
If you are non-diabetic and experience symptoms of hypoglycemia, your doctor may measure your blood glucose levels while you are experiencing the symptoms and check if the symptoms are relieved when you eat high sugar content foods.
Lab tests may also be done to evaluate the amount of insulin production in your body.
The important thing is to be aware of the symptoms of low blood sugar level and discuss with your doctor if you experience them. Please don’t ignore any symptoms if you feel they are not normal pregnancy symptoms. Always be proactive when talking with your doctor, discuss with her all your concerns. Click here to know about 21 Pregnancy Warning Signs That You Shouldn’t Ignore.
Also Read: Glucose Test During Pregnancy
What has to be done when blood sugar is low?
When you have symptoms of hypoglycemia consume food or drink that is high in sugar.
It is better to have fruit juice, as it will raise your blood sugar level faster than solid foods.
A hard candy, orange juice or apple juice, one tablespoon of honey or sugar, glucose tablets, two tablespoons of raisins are some of the food that can be taken when you are experiencing low blood sugar.
After taking the sugary food item it is generally recommended to follow up with a small high protein or high carbohydrate snack such as cheese and crackers, a slice of toast with spread or biscuits with a glass of milk.
In case of severe hypoglycemia, you may be prescribed to use a glucagon kit.
If you have diabetics, talk with your doctor on which sugary food item and in what quantity is safe for you while having hypoglycemia symptoms.
What precautions should you take if you have Hypoglycemia?
Since pregnancy causes changes in the body’s energy needs, so blood sugar levels can also change often. Monitor your blood sugar levels from time to time, as described by your doctor. You should always be prepared as blood sugar can be low during pregnancy. So during pregnancy, you should remember the below points-
- It is advisable to always carry snacks with you when you are on a move.
- Eat all your meals and snacks on time.
- If you are doing some extra activity, eat a little extra food.
- Also, eat frequently, small snacks in between meals as in mid-morning snacks and evening snack.
- If you have gestational diabetics talk to your doctor about your diet plan and follow it strictly
- If you are diabetic, take all the diabetics medicines prescribed by doctor on time
- No alcohol during pregnancy
- Proper exercise as per your doctor’s recommendations
- Don’t drive if you have low blood sugar
This may interest you: Is Exercise During Pregnancy Safe?
Low blood sugar treatment
Hypoglycemia is related to nutritional imbalances and in most cases, it is treated by proper diet. Eating the right food along with proper medications is important.
For frequent or severe hypoglycemia, proper medical attention needs to be given.
A pregnant woman should plan her activities well so as to keep her blood sugar at safer levels. Some lifestyle changes can be made so as to cope with low blood sugar levels. You can have a word with your doctor who will advise you to make certain changes in your diet according to your activities and medications you take.
You may like to read: Pregnancy Diet – The Complete Guide
What is Hypoglycemia in newborns? How to treat?
Babies can also develop hypoglycemia shortly after birth.
In the first few hours after birth, it may happen that the newborn’s blood sugar is low as the baby is separated from the supply of glucose which the baby was receiving from the placenta. However, few newborns whose mothers had diabetes during pregnancy may be unable to cope with low blood sugar. And so hypoglycemia can occur in newborns, which can be treated quickly in most cases.
A blood test will be done to find out the newborn’s sugar levels. Frequent feedings should be given to the newborn if the baby is hypoglycemic. Breastfeeding as soon as possible after delivery is the best way to treat hypoglycemia in newborns. Take your pediatrician’s help for further care and treatment of your newborn.
It is very important to know about low blood sugar condition that can happen during pregnancy so as to take care of yourself as well as others who happen to have low blood sugar.
Know the symptoms to stop hypoglycemia from worsening by treating it at the right time.
Stick to proper diet and exercise to prevent hypoglycemia. If you are diabetic understand that your chances of getting hypoglycemia is high and so always carry sugary snacks or your doctor prescribed glucagon kit with you.
Low blood sugar during pregnancy is nothing to worry about if treated properly.
Hope you find this article useful. Please share in your comments.
What other remedies are there to cope with low blood sugar during pregnancy? What other foods can be taken to cope with low blood sugar?