I was Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. Now What?
November 10, 2017
Gestational diabetes (GD) is a condition that occurs during pregnancy when blood sugar levels are too high. While the diagnosis is not a lifelong concern, like other types of diabetes, it is still a scary and serious diagnosis as well as a condition that expecting mothers need to manage.
By conservative estimates, 1 in 20 women will be diagnosed with GD during pregnancy.1 But some reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the prevalence of GD may be as high as 9.2%.1 It is usually diagnosed in weeks 24 to 28 of pregnancy.1 If left untreated or mismanaged, the impacts of GD on both moms and babies can be detrimental, even causing miscarriages or stillbirths.2
Because of the high stakes, management of GD is critical. If you are facing a GD diagnosis, the following lifestyle and diet adjustments can help lower blood sugar levels.
Diet Changes for Gestational Diabetes
The first step in managing GD is to bring blood sugar levels down through diet adjustments. This typically includes following a well-balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, and lean protein.
Limit Simple Carbohydrates
Many women may not realize that their carbohydrate consumption could be contributing to their high blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates can be classified into two main groups: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are higher in simple sugar and break down quicker. Because of this, they tend to raise blood sugar more quickly. Complex carbohydrates contain higher amounts of fiber and break down more slowly. Try to avoid foods that contain simple carbohydrates, such as sodas, baked sweets, and fruit juice concentrate. Start reviewing food labels and keep track of how many carbohydrates you consume daily.
Although it is important for women with gestational diabetes to monitor their carbs, they shouldn’t avoid them completely because they are necessary and provide many nutrients.
Distribute Meals Throughout the Day
Eat three meals and two small snacks every day. This can help keep your blood sugar levels from spiking. By not skipping meals and eating regularly, you may find that you don’t consume as much at each meal.
Practice Portion Control on Starches, Milk, and Fruit
Portion control is important on all food groups. But when managing GD, starches, milk and fruit can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Drink one glass of milk at a time or one piece of fruit at a time.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
Because of hormone changes during pregnancy, you may experience some difficulty in controlling blood sugar levels in the morning. Eating breakfast can help reduce hunger and help you make healthy food choices throughout the day. But certain cereals, fruit, and milk may not be well tolerated by women who have GD. For them, a starch and protein is a better option.3
Strictly Limit Fruit Juice, Sodas, Sweets and Desserts
These foods contain excessive amounts of simple carbohydrates. Even small portions can cause your blood sugar to rise quickly.
Be Mindful of Added Sugar
Don’t add sugar, honey, or syrup to your foods or drinks. You can consider using artificial sweeteners in moderation. Aspartame, acesulfame K, and sucralose are all safe to consume during pregnancy.3
Exercise Changes for Gestational Diabetes
Physical activity can help you reach healthy blood sugar levels. Try to incorporate 30 minutes of activity, such as walking or biking, five days a week.4 Even if you were not active before, your health care provider will recommend that you get some level of exercise while you’re pregnant and can talk to you about the types of activities that are right for your specific needs. If you were active before pregnancy, your health care provider can offer insight into the level of intensity that is best for managing your GD while keeping your baby safe.
Monitoring Gestational Diabetes
Keeping tabs on your blood sugar levels is necessary to track your progress. A food log can help you keep track of your food choices and carbohydrate intake. Your doctor may require you to use a blood glucose meter to check your blood sugar levels. By keeping a record of your levels, you can help your health care provider evaluate what is working. Recommended daily target blood sugar levels for most women with GD are:
- Before meals, at bedtime and overnight: 95 or less2
- 1 hour after eating: 140 or less2
- 2 hours after eating: 120 or less2
Looking Forward & Best Practices
GD resolves on its own after delivery. Unfortunately GD does increase your chances of having type 2 diabetes later in life and of developing GD during future pregnancies. Following healthy habits, such as a well-balanced diet and regular physical activity, can help lower your risks for GD.
Taking a prenatal vitamin can help ensure that you are meeting your nutritional goals each day. Starting a prenatal vitamin three months before conception can help prepare your body and nutrient reserve for pregnancy. Prenate® Vitamin Family offers a line of prenatal vitamins that help fill nutritional gaps. Each Prenate® contains folic acid, which help prevent neural tube birth defects. Many contain absorbable forms of iron, calcium, and DHA that help meet nutritional recommendations for both moms and babies. Talk to your doctor today to see if Prenate® is right for you.
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