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Low Blood Sugar in Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Low blood sugar, often known as Hypoglycemia, is a common condition that develops during pregnancy when blood glucose levels fall below normal. It occurs when the blood sugar level falls below 60 mg/dL.

Low blood sugar can lead to weakness, tremors, dizziness, irritability, Anxiety, headache, and a rapid heartbeat. Although Hypoglycemia can affect women or Assigned Female at Birth (AFAB) with or without Diabetes, pregnant women with both type 1 and 2 Diabetes are more likely to develop the condition.

Managing blood sugar levels during pregnancy is essential for the health of both the expecting mother and the growing child. A good diet plan, medicines, and other lifestyle changes can help keep blood sugar levels stable throughout and after pregnancy.

This article addresses the causes, symptoms, and management of low blood sugar in pregnancy.

Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar in Pregnancy

Hypoglycemia can be reactive or fasting and can affect many women during early pregnancy as well as during later days of pregnancy (second and third trimester). Both forms of Hypoglycemia share common symptoms that might vary among individuals. 

Some of the most common signs of low blood sugar in pregnancy include:

  • Hunger
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Feelings of Anxiety or irritability
  • Headache
  • Feeling irritated or cranky

In severe circumstances, Hypoglycemia can result in seizures, convulsions, impaired speech, or unconsciousness. Symptoms appear immediately when blood sugar levels fall below 60-80 mg/dL and must be addressed promptly to reduce the risk of any lethal complications.

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  • Causes of Low Blood Sugar in Pregnancy

    Doctor Use Glucometer Checking Blood Sugar Level From Patient HandSource: interstid
    Doctor checking blood sugar level

    Hypoglycemia is quite frequent in pregnant Diabetic women, with prevalence rates ranging from 19 to 44%. Those with chronic Diabetes mellitus are more likely to experience it during pregnancy. It can also arise from Gestational Diabetes, which develops throughout pregnancy. 

    Although uncommon, this condition can also caused by hormonal changes, medications, lifestyle factors, certain health concerns, and the additional metabolic requirements of the body during pregnancy.

    Let’s see these causes in detail.

    Diabetes

    Diabetes is the most prevalent cause of Hypoglycemia during the week-by-week pregnancy. Although Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) is more common among pregnant women, Hypoglycemia can occur at any stage of pregnancy. 

    Low blood sugar levels during pregnancy can occur when a person is taking medicines for Diabetes or does not eat sufficient. However, even when women with Diabetes are not taking medication, hormonal and other changes during pregnancy can cause low blood sugar levels. 

    Hence, pregnant women with Diabetes must maintain a well-balanced diet and closely check their blood sugar levels to prevent any complications associated with low blood sugar levels.

    Suggestion:
    Both a rise and fall in blood sugar levels can be harmful to the mother and infant and cause difficulties giving delivery. Hence, the expectant mother must undergo routine examinations and remain clear of any factors that may contribute to blood sugar fluctuations.

    Gestational Diabetes

    Some women acquire Gestational Diabetes while pregnant. This condition is caused by insulin resistance, hormonal changes, and the additional demands placed on the body during pregnancy. 

    Gestational Diabetes can lead to low blood sugar levels, especially in women who use Diabetic medications or do not eat enough.

    Hormonal Fluctuations

    Pregnancy leads to hormonal fluctuations, which affect glucose metabolism. The pancreas generates more insulin to control high blood sugar levels, but it may sometimes produce too much, resulting in low blood sugar.

    Medications

    Diabetes medications can reduce blood sugar levels. Besides this, other medicines that can lead to low blood sugar levels during pregnancy include:

    • Salicylates or pain relievers, including Aspirin
    • Sulfa drugs
    • Pentamidine (medicine for Pneumonia)
    • Quinine (medicine for Malaria)

    Lifestyle factors

    Lifestyle factors leading to Hypoglycemia include:

    • Skipping meals due to loss of appetite during early pregnancy
    • Consuming inadequate carbs
    • Excessive physical activity without the necessary dietary modifications
    • Heavy alcohol intake

    Medical Issues

    Several medical conditions might cause Hypoglycemia during pregnancy, causing difficulties in both fetal and maternal health. These health issues often include Acute Hepatitis, organ failure, enzyme deficiencies, pancreatic tumors, and hormone imbalances, especially in Cortisol and Glucagon.

    Metabolic Requirements

    During pregnancy, a woman’s metabolic rate rises to support the developing fetus. This increased metabolic activity needs additional energy, generally in the form of glucose. 

    If glucose intake or production does not meet the increased demand, blood sugar levels may decline, resulting in Hypoglycemia.

    Complications of Low Blood Sugar in Pregnancy

    Pregnant Woman feeling dizzySource: Antonio_Diaz
    Pregnant Woman feeling dizzy

    Diabetes is the main cause of the major complications associated with low blood sugar levels in pregnancy. Extreme Hypoglycemia during pregnancy can pose a risk for both the mother and the developing fetus.

    To mother

    • A higher risk of fainting or dizziness-related falls and injuries
    • Possibility of severe Hypoglycemia resulting in brain damage in the absence of treatment

    To child

    • If the mother has severe and frequent Hypoglycemia, there may be poor development of the fetus inside the uterus
    • Premature labor during pregnancy brought on by stress reactions in mothers

    Preventing and Treating Low Blood Sugar in Pregnancy

    The symptoms and blood glucose level are used by your doctor to make the diagnosis of Hypoglycemia. Treatment for low blood sugar in pregnancy is identical to treatment for the condition at any stage of life. 

    Hypoglycemia is frequently avoidable by following a routine that calls for you to take the following safety measures:

    • Test your blood glucose levels on a regular basis
    • Keep a regular eating and snacking routine
    • Adhere to the exercise regimen suggested by your healthcare practitioner
    • Take insulin and other medications as directed by your doctor

    If you have symptoms of Hypoglycemia during pregnancy, take the following measures after consulting your doctor:

    • In the event that you feel faint or weak, find a location to sit or lie down to prevent injury
    • Take in 15 grams of carbs to increase the amount of glucose in your blood

    Possible sources are:

    • Four ounces (half a cup) of ordinary soda or juice (not diet)
    • One tablespoon of corn syrup, honey, and sugar
    • Hard candies or jellybeans
    • If your blood glucose is less than 60 mg/dL, take in an extra 15 grams of carbs
    • Eat 15 grams of carbs every 15 minutes and repeat this cycle of eating and retesting until your blood glucose level rises to at least 60 mg/dL.
    • Eat a meal or snack to stop your blood glucose from dropping again
    Caution:
    Pregnancy-related persistent low blood glucose levels can hinder healthy fetal growth and cause preterm delivery. It might also damage the fetal beta cells that make and control insulin. Hence, it is advisable to undergo routine examinations during pregnancy to reduce the risk of any complications.

    Key Notes

    Low blood sugar in pregnancy, or Hypoglycemia, occurs when blood glucose levels fall below 60 mg/dL. Hypoglycemia makes it difficult to maintain the energy required for healthy prenatal development and regular bodily processes.

    Low blood sugar levels can cause fatigue, fainting, and heart palpitations. In severe cases, they can also lead to seizures or unconsciousness and prevent a fetus from growing normally.

    The majority of pregnant women who experience Hypoglycemia have either type 1 or type 2 Diabetes. 

    It could also arise as a consequence of Gestational Diabetes. In rare cases, low blood sugar levels could arise from medications, hormone irregularities, or other illnesses unrelated to Diabetes.

    Pregnancy-related low blood sugar management is essential for the mother’s and the unborn child’s health and well-being. By identifying the symptoms, figuring out the reasons, and employing effective management strategies, complications associated with low blood sugar levels can be significantly decreased. Medications and diet modifications are some of the other effective ways to manage the conditions. 

    However, to monitor and maintain ideal blood glucose levels during their pregnancy, expectant mothers are advised to work closely with their healthcare professionals.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the normal blood sugar level for an expecting mother?

    According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a woman’s blood sugar level before a meal should be 95 mg/dL or less, one hour after a meal needs to be around 140 mg/dL or less, and two hours after a meal should be approximately 120 mg/dL or less.

    How to lower fasting blood sugar in pregnancy?

    Fasting blood sugar can be managed effectively by having a balanced diet rich in fiber and whole grains. One can also opt forexercising regularly, staying hydrated, and getting adequate sleep.

    Is low blood sugar common in pregnancy?

    Yes, low blood sugar or Hypoglycemia is quite common during pregnancy due to hormonal fluctuations. It can lead to symptoms like dizziness, headaches, and Anxiety. However, if you are experiencing seizures and unconsciousness, reach out to your doctor immediately.

    What are the foods that lower blood sugar in pregnancy?

    Vegetables, fibrous fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, and whole grains can all help in lowering blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

    What are the effects of low blood sugar in pregnancy?

    Mild Hypoglycemia during pregnancy poses no harm to the baby or the expecting mother. However, in severe cases, low blood sugar levels can lead to preterm delivery and poor development of the fetus inside the uterus.

    Citations:
    Cheap Medicine Shop only refers to credible, authoritative sources for our content. If you’re curious about how we ensure the integrity of our content, we encourage you to read our Content Information Policy.

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    Photo of author Janet Fudge
    Janet Fudge is a highly skilled and experienced pharmacologist who serves as a contributing writer for CheapMedicineShop.com. With a strong academic background from a premier US University and a passion for helping others, Janet has become a trusted voice in the pharmaceutical world. After completing her Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Janet embarked on a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, working with various clients, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, and drug manufacturers. Her in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and dedication to patient-centered care has led her to excel in her field. As a writer for CheapMedicineShop.com, Janet uses her wealth of expertise to provide readers with accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information on various topics related to medicine and healthcare. Her engaging writing style and ability to break down complex topics into easily digestible content make her a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and the general public.
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