Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is acquired during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is not present before pregnancy, nor is it present after birth, but it does put women at risk for developing diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes usually presents itself around week 24 of pregnancy.
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there are certain changes that need to be made to manage your diabetes so that it doesn’t have an effect on your baby. Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can cause the baby to be born with problems such as an over-large body, low blood sugar, jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and respiratory distress syndrome.
How to manage gestational diabetes during pregnancy:
Test your blood sugar level:
If you have gestational diabetes, you may need to test your blood sugar seven times a day or more. Blood sugar levels need to be kept at a normal level at all times and testing will help you accomplish this. Your physician will let you know when to test, but generally you test one hour before and after meals. Keeping your blood sugar level at a normal range is important in the treatment of gestational diabetes.
Know what your normal blood sugar level is. Your physician will help you with this as there are different normals for different times of the day. You will need a blood glucose monitor to test with and a log to write down your levels.
If you have gestational diabetes, it is best to eat three small meals a day and two or three snacks throughout the day. Carbohydrates will need to be monitored, as they can increase your blood sugar level quickly. Fruit, vegetables, and whole grains should be included in your healthy diet. Your physician will help you with exact meal planning and controlling your blood sugar through meal planning.
Exercise is important during pregnancy and even more so if you have gestational diabetes. Exercise helps decrease and control your blood sugar. Walking and swimming are two good moderate exercises that are appropriate to engage in while you are pregnant.
A regular exercise program is important to control your blood sugar level and keep it under control. Your goal should be to exercise for 30 minutes everyday. Be sure to include stretching and strengthening exercises in your routine a few times a week.
Medications may be required if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Your doctor will determine if and what type of medications may be needed for stabilizing your sugar levels.
Weight gain is inevitable during pregnancy. But, too much weight gain can throw off your blood sugar levels and may cause a need for medications. Keeping a healthy weight during all phases of pregnancy is important with gestational diabetes.
Keep a record:
Keep a record of everything you eat, when and how long you exercise and your blood sugar results. It is especially helpful to write down the exact times that you eat, exercise and test, so you can see how your blood sugar levels are reacting in relation to your diet and exercise. This will help you keep better control of your diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is the most common medical problem that occurs during pregnancy. Approximately 5 percent, or 200,000 cases of all pregnant women develop gestational diabetes in the United States every year. Gestational diabetes generally isn’t life threatening and can be managed by following the above recommendations and your physicians orders.
For more information on gestational diabetes and how to manage it, please read “A woman’s guide to a healthy pregnancy”