About Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that only affects pregnant women. In these instances, a pregnant woman may no longer respond to insulin or may not make enough to break down the glucose that is needed for energy.
When the body cannot effectively break down the glucose, then too much sugar builds up in the blood and gestational diabetes occurs.
But just because you are dealing with gestational diabetes does NOT mean that you cannot enjoy a healthy pregnancy. Simple lifestyle changes, a healthy diet, and regular exercise can really help to ensure that you and your baby thrive.
At Project DOC, we want to connect pregnant mothers in the Rio Grande Valley with our network of doctors, nurses, health systems, and other health organizations to help you get the medical care you and your baby need.
Below you’ll find information related to gestational diabetes and the best types of foods to help prevent complications associated with the condition.
Protecting Yourself and Baby From Gestational Diabetes
While the reasons why some expecting mothers develop gestational diabetes are not fully understood, there are certain factors that appear to increase the likelihood of developing it. Some of these risk factors include:
- Being overweight
- Having a genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes (i.e. close relatives have diabetes 2)
- Having high blood pressure prior to becoming pregnant
- Having gestational diabetes in another pregnancy
- Being over the age of 25
- Gaining a substantial amount of weight during the pregnancy
Populations that are at a higher risk for developing gestational diabetes include:
- Native Americans
- Pacific Islanders
Diagnosis and Treatment of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed by a blood test generally taken during the second trimester. If you are a prime candidate for developing the condition, then your doctor may order that you get the test done during your first trimester.
The screening tests can include a glucose challenge test (GCT) or a glucose tolerance test (OGTT). If the results are elevated, you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Managing gestational diabetes can be effectively accomplished through diet and exercise – especially paying attention to your carbohydrate intake and portion size. Exercises that are generally safe to perform while pregnant include:
- Weight training (with light weights)
Another major key to having a good pregnancy with gestational diabetes is maintaining a healthy diet. Your doctor will help you work with a nutritionist or registered dietician to develop a meal plan that will keep you and your baby strong.
The Basics of Dieting with Gestational Diabetes
Eating healthy is important for everybody, but especially pregnant women. Some of the basics of healthy eating to control gestational diabetes include:
- Enjoy three healthy meals a day. Avoid skipping meals as you may be tempted to eat an unhealthy meal or eat a lot at one time, which can cause your blood sugar to rise too much.
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
- Eat protein with every meal.
- Avoid processed foods and fruit juices.
- Eat healthy portion sizes.
- Include vegetables in your daily diet.
- Drink only one glass of milk at a time.
- Limit your fruit portions as they are high in natural sugars.
- Less than half of your calories should come from carbohydrates.
- Aim for 20-35 grams of fiber a day.
- Limit your total fat to less than 40% of your daily calories.
Maintaining a food journal can be extremely helpful when monitoring your diet and making sure you get the right amount of healthy foods every day.
The Best Foods for Gestational Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association recommends that at every meal you should aim for 25 percent protein, 25 percent grains and starchy food, and 50 percent non-starchy vegetables.
Some of the best foods to effectively control gestational diabetes include:
- Lean protein meats (i.e. chicken breast, turkey, and pregnancy-safe fish)
- Egg or egg whites
- Fruit with a low glycemic index (i.e. strawberries and blueberries)
- Non-starchy vegetables (i.e. spinach, broccoli, and zucchini)
- Healthy unsaturated fats (i.e. avocado, nuts and seeds, tuna, and olive oil)
- Fiber-rich carbohydrates (i.e. whole grain bread, dried beans, sweet potato, peas, and lentils)
- Good sources of calcium (i.e. cheese, yogurt, and green vegetables)
Alongside these healthy sources of vitamins and nutrients, your doctor will also recommend a daily prenatal vitamin to help fill in any gaps. This daily vitamin should include folic acid and B12.
Don’t forget to take a brisk walk after a meal to help control your blood sugar levels.
Foods to Avoid
Like with any diet, you’ll want to avoid highly processed foods – especially fast food – as well as foods that contain excessive amounts of sugar. Avoid the following foods:
- Sugary drinks including sodas
- Fried foods
- Baked goods with loads of sugar (i.e. donuts, cakes, or cookies)
- Fast food
- Starch foods (i.e. white potatoes and white rice)
Your doctor may make some additional recommendations on what to avoid eating.
Your gestational diabetes should go away after giving birth. Your doctor will continue to check your blood sugar levels 6 to 12 weeks after giving birth to make sure that everything is back to normal.
It is worth noting that even if gestational diabetes goes away after birth, half of all women who had it develop type 2 diabetes later. That is why it is essential to maintain a healthy diet after birth as well. You should get tested every 1 to 3 years after delivering to monitor your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Follow Project DOC on Facebook to find out when we are having our free community health screening events for pregnant mothers.
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