4 ways to avoid gestational diabetes during pregnancy
When a family is expecting a new bundle of joy, there are a lot of things that need to be done to prepare for the big event. But many people don’t realize that the pregnancy, itself, is an important part of that preparation. As part of your prenatal care, about 24 to 28 weeks into your pregnancy, your physician will perform a simple blood test to evaluate how the mom’s body reacts to insulin. For about 18 percent of expectant moms, those results indicate gestational diabetes.
"Gestational diabetes can pose some health risks for mom and baby, including the risk of a high birth weight, jaundice, breathing problems for baby and increased chances of high blood pressure and preeclampsia for mom (a potentially fatal condition that damages organs including the kidneys)," says certified diabetes educator, Karmeen Kulkarni, MS,RD, CDE, BC-ADM, director of scientific affairs with Abbott. But she is also quick to add that a gestational diabetes diagnosis isn't the final word. For many women, especially those who follow a good diet and exercise plan, gestational diabetes is temporary and will likely resolve once the baby is born.
If you have been diagnosed, here are four proven ways to control the negative effects of gestational diabetes.
Leading an active lifestyle is important for everyone, particularly pregnant women. The good news is that it doesn’t require a lot of time to benefit from exercise. A simple 10-minute walk around the block or a relaxing yoga session can also help maintain a healthy weight and relieve stress while keeping GD in check.
2. Watch the carbs.
Doesn’t it seem like comfort foods always taste better when you are pregnant? A glass of milk and a doughnut or two — or five — really satisfies. But many of those foods we crave are loaded with carbohydrates, and that can spike our blood sugar levels. Instead, focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. For example, tart cherries are a delicious addition to your diet. “Tart cherries have been proven to reduce pain and inflammation,” Pam Nisevich Bede, RD., a sports nutrition expert at Abbott, says, adding that cherries reduce arthritic and joint pain and improve heart health.
3. Eat small meals throughout the day.
To avoid spikes in blood sugar levels, try spreading smaller meals throughout the day. Doctors recommend eating three meals and two to three snacks per day. Eating smaller meals more frequently can help you keep your blood sugar levels stable.
4. Track glucose levels in foods.
By shifting your diet to include low-glycemic foods, you can better control symptoms of gestational diabetes. Whether you are pregnant or want to be in the near future, it’s never too late to change your diet. Make an effort to include foods that don’t cause sharp rises in your blood sugar and those that have slowly digestible carbs. Doing so lowers your risk of gestational diabetes and, for your baby, it lowers the risk of future obesity. Fortunately, it’s easy to incorporate low-glycemic foods into your diet. There are variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals and bread, lean cuts of meat, and nonfat dairy products from which to choose. According to the health experts, typically, blood sugar levels should be measured after each meal, but your doctor may advise testing before meals and first thing in the morning as well.
“Pregnancy really is an opportunity to give you and your baby the best start toward healthy futures,” Christina Sherry, PhD, RD, a nutrition scientist with Abbott, says. By maintaining healthy blood sugar levels with regular exercise, a sensible, balanced diet consisting of frequent meals throughout the day, and talking regularly with your doctor about occurring symptoms, women can still have a happy and healthy pregnancy — even with gestational diabetes.