Pregnancy is an exciting and sometimes frightening time. There are many health risks, but one in particular, gestational diabetes, affects about 1 in 16 pregnant women. When it is detected early, it can be managed to keep you and your baby safe.
Gestational diabetes can affect women have never had issues with diabetes before pregnancy. It is detected when blood sugar increases to an unhealthy level.
All pregnant women are checked for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. If your test shows high blood sugar, your doctor will work with you to create a plan to keep your blood sugar within normal ranges for the rest of your pregnancy. The plan may include diet changes, medication or insulin shots.
It is important to keep blood sugars normal to protect your baby from serious health risks. Babies who are exposed to high levels of sugar grow much bigger than normal. While chunky babies may be cute, they are at risk for getting stuck in the birth canal and having breathing issues and low blood sugar after birth. They may also have weight problems as adults.
Gestational diabetes also puts moms at risk for having blood pressure issues, including a serious condition called pre-eclampsia. It can result in an emergency C-section and type 2 diabetes after pregnancy.
What to do if you have gestational diabetes
Stay calm and make a plan with your physician
You will need to visit and call your doctor's office more often to keep your sugars in normal range.
Eat a nutritious diet
Focus on high protein, healthy fats and good carbs. A common misconception is that you are "eating for two." You actually only need 300 to 500 extra calories after your first trimester. That's half a peanut butter (no jelly) sandwich on whole wheat bread.
Walking is generally safe, but discuss exercise plans with your physician.
Plan for breastfeeding
This decreases both mom and baby's risk for obesity, which is one of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Plus, breastfeeding will help you shed pregnancy weight and protect you from certain cancers.
Remember, your physician's goal is to keep you and baby happy and healthy. That's why it is so important to keep those regular appointments with your doctor during pregnancy.