If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, you were probably given a pamphlet on healthy diet and exercise, had an appointment set with an endocrinologist, and were sent on your way. But what does this diagnosis really mean for your health, your pregnancy, and your baby?
Gestational Diabetes is diagnosed when a woman has a reading of high blood sugar during her pregnancy. Usually around 27 weeks, a Glucose Tolerance Test is administered. This test involves drinking a sugary, soda-like beverage and then waiting 60 minutes for a blood sugar reading in the office. There are a few problems with the accuracy and effectiveness of this testing, besides the debate that it may be unnecessary altogether.
“….There is some debate against the use of routine testing to diagnose Gestational Diabetes, and also questioning about giving the diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes as a label on pregnant women. Dr. Sarah Buckley recommends avoiding routine testing for Gestational Diabetes for most women. Henci Goer and Dr Michael Odent are among many pregnancy and childbirth professionals who argue against diagnosing women with gestational diabetes, citing unnecessary stress and interventions as one of the risks of the Gestational Diabetes diagnosis.” Birth Without Fear, 2013.
There is usually very little risk to the baby or the mother with Gestational Diabetes, with a few cases of babies presenting with low blood sugar or jaundice at birth. These are not serious problems that resolve quickly with breastfeeding or supplementation. These are also usually cases that present with uncontrolled diet and other health concerns. Some mothers and infants are more prone to Type 2 Diabetes later in life after a diagnosis of GD, so we should focus on education and prevention after birth.
Will Gestational Diabetes Affect My Birth?
You should discuss all concerns with your health care provider about birth planning, to be sure you can have a normal birth with minimal intervention. Movement during labor, hydration, and light meals will help birth progress naturally and more easily than without.
With the diet and exercise ideas shared below, you can greatly reduce the effects this condition can have on your health and your unborn child. There are a few things to keep in mind:
Your blood sugar level must be monitored and maintained in labor, so you may receive an insulin shot at the beginning of labor or have an insulin IV during labor. You’ll also have two monitors on your abdomen for contractions and fetal monitoring, as well as have vital signs taken every hour. This is to watch for fever and any change in blood pressure, leading to the second point.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy related condition which causes a sudden increase in blood pressure. Delivery will cure the preeclampsia, but you and your doctor must decide the best course of action for you and your baby. Usually you will be kept at the hospital under observation and undergo testing until it’s decided if early delivery or another option is best.
Gestational Diabetes is not an indicator for a Cesarean, but your health provider will need to keep you informed of you and your baby’s health throughout delivery. If there are changes in your condition like the above mentioned risk factors, they may discuss this option with you. Many women are disappointed when this becomes necessary, keep in mind there are ways to make a Cesarean birth more gentle and family oriented.
It has been said that Gestational Diabetes is caused by bad eating and exercise habits, but this is usually not the case. During pregnancy, the placenta is creating hormones which can reduce the pregnant woman’s ability to use the insulin her body creates. Regardless of cause or diagnosis, some women need help proactively controlling their blood sugar level and reducing their overall risk.
Contributing factors of insulin resistance may be:
Pregnancy over 25
Hispanic or Black ethnicity
Personal or family history of diabetes
Hormone-related conditions such as PCOS
What You Can Do
Carbs cause most spikes in blood sugar, it is best to find other quick snacks and meals Some creative breakfasts could be vegetable omelets, baked avacados, fruit smoothies, and for snacks you can try hummus, salads, and frozen fruit bites.
Protein is easily found in many foods, even vegetables such as broccoli and healthy starches like sweet potatoes. Fats and oils are okay in moderation, so avocados, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and hummus are great as well as typical proteins like chicken and eggs.
Eat Smaller Meals
It’s easier for your body to keep things running smoothly with smaller, nutrient dense meals than larger, carbohydrate based meals. Don’t sacrifice your appetite, use it as an opportunity to try new snacks. Be creative with your seasonings and side dishes!
Exercising reduces the amount of sugar in your blood and helps with your energy level. 30 minutes every day is ideal, and it doesn’t matter whether you are taking three 10 minute walks around your office building or spending time at the gym. You could take a light walk, do some restorative yoga, or go for a swim.