November is a busy month with Thanksgiving just a week away and the holidays quickly following. But did you know its also National Diabetes Month?
We already know that pregnancy can bring about a slew of physical changes to your body, but did you know there is one potential change that occurs in a small percentage of pregnancies and causes your blood sugar to rise? Known as Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM), it is estimated to affect 18% of pregnancies according to the American Diabetics Association.
GDM occurs when your body is unable to make and use all of the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose can’t leave the blood and be used for energy causing it to build-up to high levels in the blood. This is known as hyperglycemia.
However, the good news is that for most women, gestational diabetes goes away once the baby is born, though for some, alterations in blood sugar will continue after birth resulting in type 2 diabetes.
Early and consistent prenatal care is absolutely imperative for optimal health of both mother and developing fetus. If not managed, GDM may lead to complications such as large birth weight, organ defects in the baby including labor and delivery complications for the mother.
If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, don’t panic just yet. Instead read on for facts and tips on how to minimize your risk of developing GDM.
According to the American Diabetes Association, you’re considered at high risk for this condition (and should be screened early) if:
- You’re obese (your body mass index is over 30)
- You were diagnosed with gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- You have sugar in your urine
- You have a strong family history of diabetes
- You’ve previously given birth to a big baby (8 or 9 pounds)
- You’ve had an unexplained stillbirth
- You’ve had a baby with a birth defect
- You have high blood pressure
- You’re over 35
Tips to Manage Gestational Diabetes
- Regular visits with your healthcare team including obstetrician, nurse educator, health coach and registered dietitian
- Get back to basics and eat “REAL” food. Cut out all processed foods and opt instead for a diet rich in nutrient dense foods that include a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, complex/unrefined carbohydrates and lean sources of protein and dairy. If you can’t commit to eating your greens, try making a daily green smoothie juice
- Eliminate added sugar including soda, diet soda, juice, candy and other sources of refined carbohydrates. These cause mom’s blood sugar to spike and put baby at an increased risk.
- Wear a form of medical ID stating that you are pregnant with GDM. In the event of an emergency, the medical ID speaks on your behalf when you can’t.
- Aim to eat 5-6 small meals and snacks a day. This provides you with consistent nutrition while minimizing spikes or dips in blood sugar.
- Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day – whether it’s a brisk walk or restorative yoga class movement is essential to help the body use insulin and blood sugar more effectively while keeping weight gain in-check.
The goal of treatment for GDM is to keep blood glucose levels equal to those of pregnant women who don’t have GDM. Once diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there are many things you can do to manage your blood glucose and provide the healthiest outcome for you and your baby. While gestational diabetes is a cause for concern, the good news is that you and your health care team can work together to lower your high blood glucose levels and risks for complications.
Were you diagnosed with GDM during your pregnancy? If so, did you make any dietary or lifestyle changes that worked for you?
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