January 3, 2024
Gestational diabetes is a common but serious condition that occurs during pregnancy. Each year, 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States are affected by gestational diabetes.
Without proper diagnosis and treatment, it can increase the risk of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia. It can also cause your baby to have a high birth weight and size, which may mean you need a C-section. Gestational diabetes can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
The good news is that gestational diabetes can be managed. Most people can control the condition with diet and exercise. Medication is an effective treatment if lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes occurs when hormone changes from pregnancy prevent your body from making enough insulin. Insulin allows sugar to move from the bloodstream into cells, where it can be used as energy. Without enough insulin, blood sugar levels rise.
Gestational diabetes may not cause symptoms, though some people notice signs, including:
- Frequent need to urinate
- Excessive thirst
- Tiredness or fatigue
Testing for gestational diabetes is standard during pregnancy. Around the 24th week of pregnancy, you’ll have a glucose challenge test where you drink a sweet liquid and wait an hour. After that, your doctor will give you a blood test to check your blood sugar level. If your blood sugar is high, you will need additional testing to confirm gestational diabetes.
Self-managing gestational diabetes
Your doctor or midwife can explain how you should monitor your blood sugar and how to adjust your diet to keep your blood sugar levels healthy. In addition, you can ask others for support and advice on how best to care for yourself and your baby after a gestational diabetes diagnosis.
1. Meal planning
Diet is one of the biggest factors in controlling gestational diabetes. You’ll need to choose foods that don’t increase your blood sugar, watch portion sizes, and eat at regular intervals each day. Planning ahead will make all of that easier. Try making a weekly meal plan, shopping regularly, and prepping snacks in advance. Having gestational diabetes-friendly foods on hand can help you relax about what to eat, as well as simplify mealtimes.
2. Daily exercise
Exercise encourages your body to use more glucose, which in turn lowers blood sugar. You can add more activity to your day by taking walks after meals, joining exercise classes geared toward pregnancy, or adding a few extra minutes to your existing exercise routine. If you have questions about what kinds of physical activity are safe during pregnancy, ask your doctor for advice.
3. Blood sugar monitoring
Gestational diabetes won’t go away if you ignore it. Keeping a close eye on your blood sugar through multiple daily tests is one of the best ways to understand how your body is processing sugar. Blood sugar testing can provide valuable insight into how your body responds to certain foods, timing of meals, and exercise. This can help you adjust your diet and activity for what’s best for you and your baby.
4. Get plenty of rest
Sleep is important for good health at every stage of life, and pregnancy is no different. Getting adequate rest can help your body operate more efficiently while you’re awake and may help you feel better while you’re managing gestational diabetes. Good sleep hygiene practices, such as turning off screens an hour before sleep, using room-darkening shades, and sleeping in a cool, quiet room, can improve the quality of sleep.
5. Communicate with friends and family
Managing gestational diabetes will become part of your daily routine, and your family can help make it easier. Talk to your partner and other family members about what your new dietary needs are so they understand the changes you’re making. Give them resources about gestational diabetes and recipes to use when they help with food preparation.
6. Find support groups
Talking to others who have experienced gestational diabetes can be a great way to find emotional support as well as tips and tricks for managing the condition. Online groups are great because they offer a 24/7 resource for any questions you have. Joining local groups that meet in person can be a way to meet new people and build a network of friends.
7. Avoid self-blame
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of wondering what you did to cause gestational diabetes. Self-blame, anxiety, and stress about the condition are natural reactions, but it’s important not to let them overwhelm you. Remember that gestational diabetes is a common issue that can happen during any pregnancy. Focus on the positive ways you can manage the situation and provide a healthy start for you and your baby. If you’re having trouble getting past negative emotions, consider talking to a mental health professional to help you work through your feelings.
8. Keep a flexible attitude
Like everything about pregnancy, gestational diabetes symptoms can change. You may find that you need to avoid certain foods that were fine the week before, or you have to change your exercise routine to accommodate your changing body. You may need to take medications to manage gestational diabetes if diet and exercise alone are not effective enough. Prepare yourself for the likelihood that you will need to adopt new strategies, and remember that the changes are in the best interest of you and your baby.
9. Listen to your medical team
Books, articles, and videos can provide helpful information about gestational diabetes. It’s important to remember, however, that these resources are meant to be general information. For personalized guidance, you should rely on your doctor and other members of your care team. They know you personally and know your medical history, so they can address your specific needs.
10. Stay positive
Gestational diabetes shouldn’t take the joy out of pregnancy. Hold on to all the excitement about your new baby. You can continue to take weekly photos of your changing body or book a photographer for professional maternity pictures. If you and your partner are planning a “babymoon” trip before the birth, make some calls to arrange for gestational diabetes-friendly meals, and then enjoy the vacation. Enjoy your baby shower and other special occasions with your loved ones.
If you have questions about gestational diabetes, the obstetrical team at Healthcare Associates of Texas can help. Make an appointment at any one of our convenient locations to discuss gestational diabetes and any other prenatal care you need.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, December 03). Gestational Diabetes. https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/diabetes-gestational.html
- Cleveland Clinic. (2022, November 11). Gestational Diabetes. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9012-gestational-diabetes
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, September 13). Tips for Better Sleep. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/aboutsleep/sleephtml
The information featured in this site is general in nature. The site provides health information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice or health services and is not meant to replace professional advice or imply coverage of specific clinical services or products. The inclusion of links to other web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.
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