If you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, know that you’re not alone. In fact, it’s much more common than you might think.
About 9 percent of pregnant women experience gestational diabetes in this country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and studies show it’s on the rise.
It’s the type of diabetes that comes on during pregnancy, and most women don’t usually have any symptoms. It is often diagnosed on screening tests between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy. However, if a woman has additional risk factors, she will be screened at her first prenatal visit.
“Women who have had gestational diabetes in a prior pregnancy are at an increased risk of developing it again,” said Dr. Katherine Wolfe, a perinatologist and director of the Diabetes and Pregnancy Program at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Other risk factors can include if a woman had a large baby in a prior pregnancy, has glucose intolerance, or is overweight or obese.”
Fortunately, with careful monitoring and treatment, it can be managed and you can still have a healthy baby.
If your doctor diagnoses you with gestational diabetes, it’s likely that you’ll be started on a treatment plan aimed at getting glucose levels under control. This includes a plan to manage your nutrition, physical activity and weight gain. Some women may need medication, such as insulin, to keep blood sugar levels at goal.
“Pregnancies complicated by gestational diabetes should have a consultation with a dietitian or diabetes educator to optimize nutrition in pregnancy,” said Dr. Wolfe. “The nutritionist will work with moms to make meal planning easy to follow. A healthy diet should include about 40 percent carbohydrates, 40 percent fats and 20 percent proteins.”
It’s best to avoid sugary, processed foods and instead, consume a well-balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
In addition, you should get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week. Walking, Pilates, yoga and swimming are great sources of exercise for pregnant moms-to-be.
Walking after meals is a great way to keep your blood sugar in check. Just walking for 10 minutes after meals will allow your body to burn glucose, said Dr. Wolfe.
Your doctor can help you monitor your weight gain. The recommendations for weight gain vary based on your pre-pregnancy BMI, but focusing on healthy nutrition and exercise will help prevent excess weight gain.
Lastly, you’ll need to check your blood sugar several times a day to ensure the health of you and your baby. Check it first thing in the morning and then an hour after each meal throughout the day.
“Monitoring your blood sugar is a vital part of mom’s treatment plan to ensure it remains in a healthy range,” said Dr. Wolfe. “Virtually all of the potential risks associated with gestational diabetes can be eliminated by carefully controlling your blood sugar.”