If You Need Insulin During Pregnancy

Front view of pregnant woman with insulin injection sites.

Your body may not be able to make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar under control during pregnancy. If this happens, you may need to take extra insulin. Taking insulin helps control your blood sugar without harming your baby. Insulin is a natural substance and is not addictive. If you did not have diabetes before pregnancy, you will most likely be able to stop taking insulin after your baby is born. In some cases, an oral antidiabetic agent, such as glyburide, may be used, but insulin is usually the preferred medicine.

Learning to take insulin

Your healthcare provider will prescribe your insulin. You will need to inject it one or more times a day. Insulin is injected into fatty tissue. It does not cross the placenta. That means it does not affect your baby the way taking a pill would. Your healthcare provider will teach you how to give yourself a shot. With practice, you’ll get comfortable doing it yourself. The best site for injecting insulin is your belly or abdomen. But you can also inject into an upper arm or thigh. Talk with your healthcare provider about where to give yourself a shot. Here are some steps to follow while injecting yourself with insulin:

  • Choose an injection site.

  • Clean with alcohol if the skin is dirty.

  • Pinch a fold of skin. Insert the needle at a 45° to 90° angle. The best angle will depend on your body type, the length of the needle, and the injection site. Your healthcare provider will help you find which angle is best for you.

  • Keeping the skin pinched, inject the insulin by pushing the plunger down.

  • Release the pinched skin.

  • Remove the needle from your skin.

Apply pressure to the site for 5 to 8 seconds if you see blood or insulin leaking from the site after injection. Don’t rub the injection area.

Needles and syringes should only be used once. After using, throw them away in a puncture-proof container, or a sharps container. Don’t throw needles in your household trash. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about taking insulin.

Finding the right dosage for you

Your healthcare provider will work with you to find the right dosage of insulin for you. This may take time. That’s because you need to balance your insulin with your food and exercise. Your body’s need for insulin also increases as your baby grows. You must check your blood sugar several times a day. This is to be sure your insulin is working properly. If your blood sugar is too high or too low, your healthcare provider will adjust your insulin.

Low blood sugar

Taking insulin puts you at risk of low blood sugar. Always treat low blood sugar right away:

  • Symptoms of low blood sugar include shakiness, dizziness, weakness, and confusion.

  • If you feel any of these symptoms, check your blood sugar right away.

  • To treat low blood sugar, eat 15 grams of fast-acting sugar (see below). Check your blood sugar again in 15 minutes. If your blood sugar is still low, eat another 15 grams of sugar.

  • If your blood sugar does not return to target range in 30 minutes, call your healthcare provider.

15 grams of fast-acting sugar equals

  • 3 glucose tablets

  • 5 to 6 pieces of hard candy

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey or sugar

  • ½ cup fruit juice or regular, non-diet soda

  • 1 cup fat-free milk