If you've drunk the awful sugary orange drink, had your finger pricked, and been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, you know that it can feel absolutely overwhelming upon diagnosis.
In one instant it can seem as if your entire world has been turned upside down, but know this - you are not alone. In fact, it's a very common diagnosis. An estimated 5-10% of women will be diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes during their pregnancy.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Pregnant women who have not previously been diagnosed with diabetes but who have high blood sugar during their pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes.
It starts when your pregnancy begins to cause insulin resistance. Insulin is needed to send the glucose from your food out to your body tissues to use as energy. In the case of insulin resistance, glucose from food builds up in the blood stream instead of being sent out into the body causing high blood sugar or hyperglycemia.
Why You Need to Take It Seriously
Most of the time, women don't feel like anything is wrong with them (because you can't see high blood sugar) so there's a temptation not to adjust your diet and lifestyle to accommodate it. That's not a great idea, because gestational diabetes can negatively affect you AND your baby.
The baby can develop high blood sugar levels as a result of the extra glucose in your blood. Babies of mothers with unmanaged GD can face damage to their shoulders during birth, low blood sugar at birth, and a higher risk for breathing problems.
Later in life, those same babies are also at high risk for obesity or Type 2 Diabetes.
Not managing your glucose levels can lead to a higher likelihood of early induction and C-section. Other risks include stillbirth and high blood pressure/pre-eclampsia for the mother. These are all reasons why it is imperative that you work with your OB or a Registered Dietitian to monitor your blood sugar levels and minimize these risks.
Ways to Manage Your Gestational Diabetes
Keeping your numbers within a healthy range (under 90 but above 60 when fasting, and lower than 120 two hours after a meal) is crucial to decreasing all the scary risks mentioned above. Here's how you do it:
- Follow a high-protein, low-carb diet
- Exercise regularly, performing both prenatal strength and cardio routines
- Plan out meals and snacks in advance to help you make better choices and resist cravings
- Eat balanced meals and snacks every few hours throughout the day
- Drink plenty of fluids to stay properly hydrated
- Practice stress management by using relaxation techniques like yoga, mindfulness, journaling, hot baths, massages, and acupuncture
- Monitor and record your blood sugar throughout the day so you can review it with a health professional
Even if you follow the recommended diet and lifestyle modifications, your body may not respond like you need it to. And it's not your fault! In this case though, you will need to begin taking medication to manage your blood sugars. While it's not preferable, it's safer for you and the baby so make sure to strongly consider this option when it's made available to you.
After Delivery - Impacts of Gestational Diabetes
For most women, blood sugar levels return to normal within 6-12 weeks after delivery. However, GD is a warning sign that you may be prone to developing diabetes later in life. Use your diagnosis during pregnancy as a chance to make healthy food and lifestyle choices to give you a better, longer life.
Remember, GD isn't your fault and though it might feel hard or overwhelming to diligently plan out healthy meals and workouts, it's worth it for a healthy and happy baby in just a few months!