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Gestational diabetes is diagnosed when your body cannot deal with the additional demand for insulin production leading to high blood sugar levels. Gestational diabetes is managed by screening blood sugar levels, following a healthy diet plan, and doing regular physical activity. Effective management of gestational diabetes will decrease the risk of complications during pregnancy and the birth of your baby.
You can effectively manage gestational diabetes in the following three basic components:
- monitoring blood sugar levels
- following a healthy diet plan
- performing physical activity
Gestational diabetes can often primarily be managed with healthy eating and regular physical activity. Nevertheless, for some women with gestational diabetes, insulin injections will be essential for the rest of the pregnancy. Although roughly 10 – 20% of women will need insulin, once the baby is born, insulin is no longer required. Gestational diabetes typically disappears once the baby is born. A special blood glucose test (Oral Glucose Tolerance Test) is performed six weeks after delivery to make sure that blood glucose levels have normalized. Nevertheless, women who have had gestational diabetes have a bigger risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life and should be tested for diabetes at least every 2 – 3 years.
Gestational Diabetes Symptoms
Gestational diabetes symptoms vary depending upon the elevation of blood sugar in your body. Some of the major symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme appetite, tiredness, and blurry vision.
Gestational Diabetes May Affect Your Baby
Your baby may be affected if gestational diabetes is not well looked after. A large baby, miscarriage, and still birth are the normal problems that may impact your baby. Other complications may include pregnancy loss and premature delivery. A large baby can produce the risk of injury at delivery, caesarean delivery, forceps delivery and a need for the baby to be looked after in special care until the glucose level stabilizes after delivery. If you have other gestational diabetes complications, you may need additional tests to assess your baby’s health.
Monitoring Blood Glucose Levels During Pregnancy
It is significant to screen your blood sugar levels at home to check that management of gestational diabetes is keeping your blood glucose levels within the target range. If you cannot manage your blood glucose levels by healthy eating and physical activity alone, your doctor may suggest medication. Most diabetes tablets are not appropriate for use during pregnancy, but insulin injections and/or a medication called metformin may be essential to help manage your gestational diabetes.
Sticking to a Healthy Diet Plan
Diet plays a key role in managing gestational diabetes. Sticking to a healthy diet plan will help manage blood glucose levels within the target range recommended by your doctor, as well as providing suitable nutrition for you and your growing baby. You are advised to see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian to work out a meal plan that is suitable for mother and the growing baby.
Eating Healthy Diet During Pregnancy
To maintain a healthy weight, women with gestational diabetes ought to eat small amounts frequently. They should include some carbohydrate in every meal and snack such as pasta, potato, lentils, chickpeas, and beans. Also, they should eat varied foods that are high in fiber and avoid drinks and foods containing large amounts of sugar.
Consuming Carbohydrates During Pregnancy
Used for energy, carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose. To help manage your blood glucose levels, it is significant to spread your carbohydrate foods over three small meals and 2-3 snacks each day. Foods that contain carbohydrate include multigrain breads and breakfast cereals; pasta, rice and noodles; potato (in moderation), sweet potato and corn; milk and yoghurts. In some occurrences, you may be eating the right amount (and type) of carbohydrate foods for your body, but still have high blood glucose levels. If this occurs, it is vital to talk to your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator.
Limiting Fat During Pregnancy
You should try to restrict the amount of fat you eat, especially fat. Fats like canola, olive and polyunsaturated oils and margarines, avocados and unsalted nuts are good for health. To restrict your saturated fat consumption, select lean meats, skinless chicken and low-fat dairy foods and evade takeaway and processed foods.
Protein Key in Gestational Diabetes
Include two small serves of protein each day as protein is important for the growth of the baby and maintenance of healthy mum. Protein foods include lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, eggs and reduced fat cheese. These foods do not directly affect your blood glucose levels. Milk, yoghurts, custards and legumes (beans, lentils, and chickpeas) are also important sources of protein. However, remember that they also contain carbohydrate.
Requirements of Calcium & Iron During Pregnancy
Calcium and iron requirements rise during pregnancy. Try to include 2-3 serves of low-fat calcium rich foods each day. The iron from red meat, chicken and fish is readily absorbed. Nevertheless, if you are a vegetarian or do not eat these foods frequently, an iron supplement or pregnancy multivitamin may be essential.
Water for Women Suffering Gestational Diabetes
Water—plain water and soda water—is the best drink for your body. Try it with fresh lemon or lime for something different. ‘Diet’ or sugar-free drinks are appropriate for people with diabetes. Nevertheless, carbonated and caffeinated varieties can raise the risk of osteoporosis and may impact mood, so you should consume it in moderation.
Physical Activity Key for Women with Gestational Diabetes
Some physical activity can help manage blood sugar levels in women with gestational diabetes. If there are no specific obstetric or medical conditions, you should regularly exercise during pregnancy. It’s, however, best to discuss this with your obstetrician or midwife before beginning any exercise regime in pregnancy. A walk every day will also help maintain your weight and blood glucose level.
Things to Do Post Pregnancy
Diabetes usually disappears once the baby is born. A special blood glucose test (Oral Glucose Tolerance Test) is performed six weeks after delivery to ensure that blood glucose levels have returned to normal. Nevertheless, women who have had gestational diabetes have an augmented risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life and should be tested for diabetes at least every 2 – 3 years. Gestational diabetes test should be conducted with the consultation of a qualified doctor. You should check for diabetes at least every 2 to 3 years, prior to planning a pregnancy, or if you are feeling well.
Breastfeeding Highly Recommended
All women, including those with gestational diabetes, are highly recommended to breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding provides the best start for your baby and can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight.