Resource Page for Gestational Diabetes
Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before, but who have high blood sugar levels during pregnancy are diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes.
Gestational diabetes affects about 135,000 women in the United States each year, about 4% of all pregnant women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. (Reference 1)
Gestational Diabetes Causes
The exact cause of gestational diabetes is not known.
We do know that gestational diabetes affects the body’s ability to either use or produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the body convert glucose from food into energy.
All food we eat eventually breaks down to glucose (sugar), which is the body’s main source of energy. When you are pregnant, the placenta which nourishes your baby produces a variety of hormones.
Some pregnancy hormones can interact in a way that impedes the work of insulin within body tissues. The result is high blood sugar. As the baby grows, the placenta produces more of these hormones that interfere with insulin.
Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed in the second half of pregnancy, after the 20th week. If high blood sugar levels are left untreated or unmanaged, it can lead to a very large birth weight for the baby (macrosomia) and puts the baby at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes also raises the mother’s risk for type 2 diabetes. So, it’s important to eat foods that help with blood sugar control while you’re pregnant.
Gestational Diabetes Symptoms
For most women, there are not many noticeable symptoms of gestational diabetes.
Sometimes, but rarely, gestational diabetes can cause excessive thirst or increased urination. If you are overweight or physically inactive, you may be at an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Ask your doctor to test your blood sugar as part of your prenatal care. This will help determine if you are at risk of developing gestational diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes Tips
If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there are several things you can do to lower both your own risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and the risk your child will develop type 2 diabetes.
Tip #1 – Have your blood sugar tested for diabetes 6-12 weeks after your baby is born.
Then, have your blood sugar tested for diabetes each year with your annual check up.
Tip #2 – Breastfeed your baby.
Research has shown that breast feeding may help lower your child’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life (Reference 2). Furthermore, the female body releases a hormone called oxytocin during breastfeeding which may help you feel better emotionally.
Tip #3 - Try to reach your pre-pregnancy weight within 6-12 months after your baby is born.
Then, if you still are carrying some excess weight, set a goal to lose 5-7% of your overall body weight.
Tip #4 – Increase your level of physical activity.
Set a goal to be physically active for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Try to find an activity you enjoy that you can participate in for 30 minutes on most days of the week, such as an evening walk. You can also do small things, like park further away in parking lots, and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
As you increase physical activity, it can help improve blood sugar control and can also help increase your resting metabolic rate, which promotes weight loss.
Tip #5 – Choose healthier foods every day.
It is important to choose the right foods that can help manage your blood sugar. You should eat a balanced diet and keep track of your caloric intake.
Generally, you should look for foods that are Low Glycemic, Low Fat and/or Low Calorie. Also, look for foods that contain healthy amounts of protein and fiber, both of which can help you feel full without raising your blood sugar levels.
Swap out any unhealthy snack for an Extend Nutrition snack and you will be on the right track!
Tip #6 – Follow a healthy lifestyle as a family.
Serve your children healthy foods such as real vegetables and fruits, lean meats, dry beans and peas, whole grains, and skim milk.
Replace less healthy drinks with water, and replace less healthy snacks with Extend Nutrition Snacks.
You should also get physically active as a family. Encourage your children to play outside. Limit the time your kids are allowed to be physically inactive (such as watching television, sitting at a computer, or playing video games). (Reference 4)
*The information provided above is not a substitute for professional medical advice and care. If you have specific needs, please see a professional health care provider.
(Reference 1) American Diabetes Association http://www.diabetes.org/gestational-diabetes.jsp
(Reference 2) Diabetes Health Magazine http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read/2007/02/01/4983/breastfeeding-may-lower-type-2-risk-later-in-life/?section=101
(Reference 3) Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gestational-diabetes/DS00316/DSECTION=symptoms
(Reference 4) National Diabetes Education Program http://www.ndep.nih.gov/media/gestational-diabetes-article.pdf