Gestational diabetes is a temporary form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It happens when the body can’t produce the insulin it needs during pregnancy, and as a result, high blood sugar levels develop. Gestational diabetes can sound scary, but the good news is, with healthy lifestyle habits, you can keep it in check and under control. Take a look at 8 tips and resources, plus the signs and causes of gestational diabetes.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy in women who don’t already have diabetes. Gestational diabetes causes high blood pressure and can potentially cause some health risks to both the pregnant woman and the fetus.
Risks for the baby include excessive birth weight, premature birth, low blood sugar levels, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes later in life. For the woman who’s pregnant, it can cause an increase in blood pressure, and a higher risk of developing preeclampsia during pregnancy. If you have gestational diabetes, your blood sugar levels typically go back to normal soon after delivery.
Many women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar levels with lifestyle changes, including diet and physical activity. However, some women will need to take insulin for better control. If you can’t manage it on your own, your healthcare provider may recommend insulin injections or pills to keep your levels within your target range.
What Causes Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes happens because of changes in your hormones during pregnancy. The hormones affect how your body’s cells use sugar, which can raise your blood sugar. This essentially all comes down to insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy. During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause your body’s cells to make insulin less effectively, a condition called insulin resistance.
Some women are more at risk for developing gestational diabetes, including:
- Women older than 25 years
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- Personal history of prediabetes
- Not being physically active
- Gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies
- Being overweight or obese
3 Signs of Gestational Diabetes
Most women with gestational diabetes don’t experience any signs or symptoms. The only way to know for sure that you have it is with a blood sugar test that’s typically given around 24 to 28 weeks gestation. Some women may notice subtle signs of gestational diabetes, including:
- Increased thirst- drinking more than normal and always feeling thirsty.
- Fatigue- feeling tired is one of the most common signs of pregnancy, but with gestational diabetes you may feel even more tired than normal.
- Dry mouth- a parched mouth, despite drinking a lot, is another sign.
8 Gestational Diabetes Tips and Resources
1. Exercise Regularly
Moderate exercise is one of the best ways to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Physical activity lowers your glucose level, so exercise is an effective way to handle gestational diabetes. If you were active before you got pregnant, you should aim to keep the same level of fitness. Activities such as walking, swimming, or prenatal aerobics and yoga are great ways to control your blood sugar levels. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any sort of physical activity as they may advise against it if you have other health conditions or complications with your pregnancy.
2. Eat Well
Healthy eating is crucial when you have gestational diabetes. Up your intake of high fibre foods like whole grains, veggies, fruits, beans, and lentils, as they help control your blood sugar and prevent constipation. Try to eat protein at each meal as it doesn’t raise blood sugars and is crucial for your health and your baby’s health. Foods rich in protein include chicken, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, tofu, beans, and cottage cheese.
3. Limit Sweets
Limit sweet foods and food and drink with added sugars, as they quickly raise blood sugar. This includes table sugar, brown sugar, syrup, candy, honey, jams, sweetened drinks, and juice. Limit cakes, cookies, candies and pastries as much as possible as they’re likely to raise your blood sugar levels too much. They contain a lot of fat and sugar and little to no nutritional value. When you’re thirsty opt for water instead of juice, pops, or other sweetened beverages.
4. Adopt Healthy Eating Habits
Along with eating healthy foods, there are some other healthy eating guidelines you should try to follow. Aim to eat three meals and three snacks everyday. Spreading your food out throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar from going too high or too low. You’ll also want to spread your carbohydrates over the day so your body has a steady supply of sugar in the blood to meet yours and your baby’s needs.
5. Limit Sitting As Much As Possible
Do your best to limit the amount of time you spend sitting down. Try walking to work, standing on the train or bus, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking a walk during your lunch break, or setting a reminder on your phone to stand up regularly. Making sure you’re not too sedentary can be helpful.
6. Always Eat Breakfast
Blood sugar can be difficult to control in the morning because that’s when your pregnancy hormones are very strong. These hormones can cause your blood sugar levels to rise even before you eat. A breakfast that combines protein and healthy fats for slow-release energy, as well as complex carbs is best. Always opt for whole grain options like oats or brown rice over refined grains as they’ll keep your blood sugar steady instead of spiking.
7. Monitor Blood Sugar Often
Make sure you’re monitoring your blood sugar on a regular basis. Since pregnancy causes the body’s need for energy to change, blood sugar levels can change very quickly. Be sure to check your blood sugar often, as directed by your doctor.
8. Do Your Research
If you have gestational diabetes and don’t know much about the condition, there are resources you can look to to inform yourself about what’s going on with your body. Here are some helpful resources below:
If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, try these tips and resources and make a plan with your healthcare providers to get you through your pregnancy in the healthiest way possible!
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