Ariana, type 1 from New York, writes: I am curious, do you know of any research related to the safety of Bluetooth-enabled pumps, sensors and receivers during pregnancy? Almost every type 1 diabetic woman I know has used the Dexcom during pregnancy, and yet it’s not actually approved for pregnancy. Likewise, with pumps using more wireless technology, I’m just wondering about what effect it has, if any, on the baby’s brain development. Any insight?

Wil@Ask D’Mine answers: You are correct that the current Dexcom G6 isn’t approved for pregnant women. It’s only approved for “persons two years and older.” Its predecessor wasn’t approved either, and the safety info from the company for that system is revealing. It said that the G5 “was not evaluated, nor approved for” pregnant women. So Dexcom didn’t even try to get it approved. But that’s changing. Dexcom has a posting on ClinicalTrials.gov right now for a study “to establish the performance and safety of the Dexcom G6” in pregnant women with diabetes.

And the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, who were famously on point for D-peep and ex-Miss America Nicole Johnson during her pregnancy, is currently recruiting women for a study that will help create algorithms for gestational Artificial Pancreas systems.

Meanwhile, as you say, almost all pregnant type 1 women are wearing CGMs, so while it’s not FDA approved, it’s certainly become the standard of care. For good reason: There’s no shortage of science showing the good effect CGM is having on the health of both mamma and baby. In fact, the JDRF just recently published results of a study they sponsored that concluded with the bold (but evidence-based) statement: “Use of CGM during pregnancy in patients with type 1 diabetes is associated with improved neonatal outcomes, which are likely to be attributed to reduced exposure to maternal hyperglycemia.”

Still, could there be a hidden risk from all those wireless signals bombarding the growing baby? To be honest, no one knows. There’s a lot of pure bull out there on the subject of radiation from Wifi and Bluetooth, which is being fed by a snake oil-like vendors peddling protective devices and clothing, but not much good science. There is a small, but vocal, group of doctors and advocates who call themselves The Baby Safe Project who are making a lot of noise about the subject and pushing for more study and more caution in the meantime. There’s also at least one animal study suggesting a link between cellphone energy and altered biology: a study of baby mice who were bombarded with cellphone-like energy and developed memory issues and hyperactivity, but detractors raise issues with the study design.

So, what should we make of this?

Well, one thing to consider is that while cell phone subscriptions have soared over the last two decades, the brain cancer rate has stayed remarkably flat, at the same level since the 1970s. If the radiation from these devices that everyone has glued to their ears was dangerous, don’t you think we’d see an uptick in cancer?

Of course, growing babies are ultra-sensitive to the environment, and radiation can harm a baby. At least some kinds can. According to the CDC, a human fetus is “sensitive” to ionizing radiation, exposure to which (at high enough levels) can result in, “growth restriction, malformations, impaired brain function, and cancer.” Yipes! OK, what is ionizing radiation? It’s radiation that’s powerful enough to knock electrons off of atoms — which means it can damage tissue, and even monkey with DNA. Think yellow triangles and nuclear meltdowns…

But let’s be clear, none of our diabetes gadgets emit ionizing radiation at all, regardless of the strength of the signal. Instead, they use various flavors of old-school radio waves, not that different from the AM station you listened to as a kid. Even X-Rock 80 didn’t have the power to rock electrons off atoms. In fact, Bluetooth actually uses a type of short-wavelength radio waves in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) range—the same type of waves used for cell phones, wireless computer networks, and TV broadcasting, among other applications.

So even though there’s no body of science to support it yet, is it still possible that our D-devices could hurt a developing baby in the womb? Sure, anything is possible. But while that remains a mystery, it’s no mystery how devastating high maternal blood sugar levels are the same baby. So at least until we know more, Bluetooth diabetes devices are by far the lesser of evils.


Wil Dubois lives with type 1 diabetes and is the author of five books on the illness, including “Taming The Tiger” and “Beyond Fingersticks.” He spent many years helping treat patients at a rural medical center in New Mexico. An aviation enthusiast, Wil lives in Las Vegas, NM, with his wife and son, and one too many cats.