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Diabetic Ketoacidosis in Pregnancy

Sibai, Baha M. MD; Viteri, Oscar A. MD

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000060
Contents: Clinical Expert Series
Expert Discussion
Spanish Translation

Pregnancies complicated by diabetic ketoacidosis are associated with increased rates of perinatal morbidity and mortality. A high index of suspicion is required, because diabetic ketoacidosis onset in pregnancy can be insidious, usually at lower glucose levels, and often progresses more rapidly as compared with nonpregnancy. Morbidity and mortality can be reduced with early detection of precipitating factors (ie, infection, intractable vomiting, inadequate insulin management or inappropriate insulin cessation, β-sympathomimetic use, steroid administration for fetal lung maturation), prompt hospitalization, and targeted therapy with intensive monitoring. A multidisciplinary approach including a maternal-fetal medicine physician, medical endocrinology specialists familiar with the physiologic changes in pregnancy, an obstetric anesthesiologist, and skilled nursing is paramount. Management principles include aggressive volume replacement, initiation of intravenous insulin therapy, correction of acidosis, correction of electrolyte abnormalities and management of precipitating factors, as well as monitoring of maternal-fetal response to treatment. When diabetic ketoacidosis occurs after 24 weeks of gestation, fetal status should be continuously monitored given associated fetal hypoxemia and acidosis. The decision for delivery can be challenging and must be based on gestational age as well as maternal-fetal responses to therapy. The natural inclination is to proceed with emergent delivery for nonreassuring fetal status that is frequently present during the acute episode, but it is imperative to correct the maternal metabolic abnormalities first, because both maternal and fetal conditions will likewise improve. Prevention strategies should include education of diabetic pregnant women about the risks of diabetic ketoacidosis, precipitating factors, and the importance of reporting signs and symptoms in a timely fashion.

Maternal and perinatal outcomes in diabetic ketoacidosis in pregnancy are improved with early detection, prompt recognition of precipitating factors, and aggressive therapy.

Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, Texas.

Corresponding author: Baha M. Sibai, MD, 6410 Fannin Street, Suite 210, Houston, TX 77030; e-mail:

Continuing medical education for this article is available at

Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

© 2014 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.