ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- If a woman has diabetes and is looking to get pregnant, having uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to birth defects.

But women with diabetes can, and do, still have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

"Any woman with what we call pre-gestational, or type one or type two diabetes, really needs to plan their pregnancies, because that blood sugar control is so, so important, early, early in the pregnancy," said Barbara Martin, the Diabetes Educator at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Type one diabetes is characterized by insulin deficiency. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance. Gestational diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy, and will often go away after the baby is born.

Type one or type two diabetes can lead to an increased risk of birth defects if a mother's blood sugar is not in check during conception.

"The risk in the general population for birth defects is about three percent, and then someone with uncontrolled diabetes, that risk would be three to four times increased," Martin said. "Most often, they are defects in the heart, the brain, and the limbs."

But if blood sugar is under control, women with diabetes can have healthy pregnancies.

"She is a high-risk pregnancy, she does, again, need to have those blood sugars well controlled before pregnancy, but she certainly can have a healthy pregnancy and we see lots of those," Martin said.

Martin says she recommends that women communicate with their doctors before trying to get pregnant.

"Planning is key. Preferably, a visit with a mom's endocrinologist and OB doctor, and any other specialists, depending on what her health issues are," she said.

That's because having a plan from the very start is key for the health of a baby.

"It's unfortunate because a lot of women don't know they need to have good blood sugar control prior to pregnancy, so it's heartbreaking if a woman doesn't know this and comes in with uncontrolled blood sugars and then has problems," Martin said.

Doctors and educators at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital can help make a plan for women with diabetes looking to start a family. To learn more about diabetes care at Sentara Martha Jefferson, click here.