Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy.
This type of diabetes is present in 2% to 10% of pregnancies and normally develops around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Although the diagnosis can be upsetting, there are lifestyle changes you can make before and during early pregnancy to decrease your chances of developing gestational diabetes.
If you’re concerned about developing gestational diabetes, you don’t need to be!
While there are women who are at risk of being diagnosed, you can lower your risk and increase your chance of having a healthy pregnancy and baby.
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What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is simply a diagnosis of diabetes occurring in pregnancy.
Like type 2 diabetes, your body’s cells can’t process sugar, also known as glucose.
Because of this, you experience high blood insulin levels.
While being diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy is concerning, it is temporary!
Soon after you give birth to your beautiful baby, those high blood sugar levels return to normal.
It’s not completely known why certain women get gestational diabetes and others don’t.
However, many doctors think is has something to do with the increase in pregnancy hormones.
Your baby is connected to your blood supply through the placenta.
Once the placenta is fully functioning, it releases high hormone levels that decrease your cell’s ability to process glucose.
In other words, the placenta is producing insulin-counteracting hormones.
Are You At Risk?
Although any pregnancy can result in gestational diabetes, some women are at an increased risk.
Here’s how to tell if you are at greater risk of gestational diabetes:
- Family history of diabetes
- You’re older than 25
- You BMI is 30 or higher
- You are African, Native American, Pacific Islander, Asian or Hispanic descent
- Previous unexplained miscarriage/stillbirth
- You’re expecting twins
- If you’ve previously given birth to a baby 9 or more pounds
- History of high blood pressure
What Are The Symptoms Of Gestational Diabetes?
There’s a common misconception that if you have diabetes, you’ll likely know because you’ll recognize the symptoms.
The symptoms of diabetes can be confused with other diseases/disorders.
Plus, during pregnancy you’re dealing with a lot of annoying symptoms caused by pregnancy hormones.
You won’t always recognize the signs of diabetes.
Here are the symptoms of gestational diabetes:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive need to pee
- Blurred vision
Some of these symptoms are similar to pregnancy symptoms.
Therefore, your doctor will test for gestational diabetes regardless of your risk.
What Are The Risks For You And Baby?
While having higher blood sugar levels throughout pregnancy is annoying, it is manageable.
Once you give birth, your blood sugar levels will return to normal.
However, if you’re diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy then you are at a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
With gestational diabetes, there are some risks to your baby you need to be aware of including…
- A higher birth weight
- Troubles breathing
- Low blood sugar
- Shoulder dystocia (a condition causing a baby’s shoulder to become stuck in the birth canal)
How Is Gestational Diabetes Diagnosed?
The test for gestational diabetes is straightforward.
It is performed in office and consists of drinking an extremely sugary drink. Mine tasted like a super sweet 7 Up.
Then, after an hour you get a blood draw. All in all, not that bad.
Unless you’re squeamish when it comes to blood draws.
However, if your sugar level is high a repeat three-hour glucose test will need to be done.
I’ll be honest with you… The three-hour test sucks!
The three-hour glucose test consists of drinking another very sugary drink and blood draws at one hour, two-hour and again at three-hours after. Like I said, it sucks!
I had the three-hour glucose test done during my first pregnancy and it was no fun.
I left feeling extremely tired and feeling like I had no more blood to give.
I am now expecting my second baby and I’m assuming I will be taking both glucose tests again.
My first pregnancy I did not get diagnosed with diabetes and I’m hoping I won’t this time around either.
But it is worth mentioning that I am at high risk of developing diabetes because both my grandmother and mother have Type 2 diabetes.
How Do You Decrease Your Chances Of Gestational Diabetes?
If you are at high risk of developing gestational diabetes,you can’t completely prevent it.
However, that doesn’t mean you can accept your pregnancy diabetes fate.
Change your fate by lowering your chances of being diagnosed!
You can reduce your chances of gestational diabetes by implementing diet and exercise changes in your life.
When it comes to reducing your risk of diabetes during pregnancy, a balanced diet is key.
But let’s be honest… You’re pregnant and sometimes maintaining balance is hard.
Pregnancy food cravings come into play and you can’t always say no.
Trust me, I’m right there with you in my first trimester and I totally understand.
It’s important to recognize why you are having certain pregnancy cravings and to substitute those unhealthy cravings with a healthier food option.
If you need help managing your food cravings, CLICK HERE.
For gestational diabetes, you need to have a delicate balance between carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.
Here’s a quick breakdown for you:
- 40-50% of calories need to come from carbs
- 20-25% of calories from protein
- 25-35% of calories from fat
I know the numbers can seem daunting. But don’t focus on the percentage numbers of what you should have in your diet. I’ll make this easier for you!
Let’s look at some easy ways to manage gestational diabetes in your diet:
Avoid “Simple” Carbs
Simple carbs are just simply that… Simple! These types of carbs offer your body very little nutritional value.
Of course, these carbs tend to be the most delicious like cookies, cupcakes, French fries, etc.
Avoiding simple carbs is important for reducing your chances of developing gestational diabetes because these types of carbs cause spikes in your blood sugar.
If you eat too many simple carbs, blood sugar spikes occur, and your body is less likely to bring your glucose down because of pregnancy hormones.
While you don’t have to eliminate carbs completely, you need to avoid simple carbs and replace them with complex carbs.
Here’s a quick view of carbs to avoid and complex carbs to add:
Carbohydrates To Avoid:
- Fried foods
- Processed foods
- Sugary drinks
- Starchy foods (potatoes and rice)
- Alcohol (Duh! You should avoid this anyway while pregnant…)
- Baked goods
Complex Carbohydrates To Eat Instead:
- Fresh fruit (apples, berries, grapefruit, oranges)
- Whole grain breads
- Whole grain cereals
- Chickpeas (roast them in the oven for a healthy snack that’s amazing!)
- Greek Yogurt
Develop An Exercise Routine
I don’t have to tell you by now just how beneficial physical activity is for your life.
But did you know physical activity can also decrease your likelihood of developing gestational diabetes?
Recent research suggests that exercise during pregnancy helps regulate your blood sugar levels.
Thus, reducing your chances of a pregnancy diabetes diagnosis.
For women who are at high risk of gestational diabetes, it’s recommended to exercise 5 to 6 days a week for a duration of 30 to 45 minutes. Kind of seems like a lot,right?
Well you can always adjust your exercise routine for what’s right for you and your pregnancy.
If you are unsure about how to start with a prenatal exercise routine, always make sure to consult your doctor.
Best Exercises During Pregnancy
Although you do have to be cautious when it comes to exercise, there’s still tons of exciting exercises to try during your pregnancy.
Just be careful not to engage in activity where you might become unbalanced or get dizzy.
For instance, you can still walk hiking trails. However, choose trails with smooth terrain to reduce falls.
Here’s some great exercises to add to your prenatal routine:
By far the easiest exercise you can add to your life! You only need 30 to 45 minutes a day.
Whether you choose to walk on a treadmill or walk around the neighborhood, you can fit this in easily.
While I prefer to walk on my treadmill in my garage, sometimes that’s not always possible.
How about including your other children in your prenatal exercise routine by going for a walk with your children and a jogging stroller.
I love to swim! How I wish I had access to an indoor pool all year round!
Swimming will not only reduce your risk of gestational diabetes, but it can lessen your joint and back pain.
Now that’s something to swim for!
Many people don’t have an elliptical or stair climber at their house.
Therefore, if you want to try these machines while pregnant you may want to invest in a gym membership.
I’m personally not crazy about going to the gym.
It’s kind of hard to make it there when you’re constantly looking after a toddler.
However, you can still climb stairs! If you don’t have a stair case, buy a set of plastic stair steps to help you beat pregnancy diabetes!
Weight training is a great way to gain and maintain muscle tone during pregnancy.
Instead of opting for heavier weight, opt for more reps.
For example, instead of lifting 30-pound weights with reps of 10, lift 15-pound weights with reps of 12 to 15.
If you’re like me and don’t like hitting the gym (or don’t have the time), buy yourself a set of at-home weights to allow you to workout anytime.
I personally find yoga a little boring. However, for many pregnant women yoga offers many benefits.
If you’re familiar with the flexibility and stretching poses for yoga, you can easily grab your yoga mat and get some relaxation right at home.
Gestational diabetes tends to complicate pregnancy.
However, many women receive the diagnosis and go on to have perfectly healthy babies and their blood sugar levels return to normal.
If you’re like me, you may be at high risk for diabetes during pregnancy.
But just because genetics dealt you a bad hand, doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your chances of gestational diabetes.
Now that I am finishing up the first trimester of my second pregnancy, I am worried about getting diabetes.
It runs in my family and I was within 2 points of being diagnosed in my last pregnancy.
I’m assuming I will be taking both the 1 hour and 3-hour tests for diagnosis.
During my last pregnancy, I was able to avoid diabetes medication.
But I had to be very aware of the foods I consumed and make it a goal to include exercise in my daily routine.
This pregnancy will be no different. Now that my pregnancy nausea has begun to lessen during week 10, I’ve begun to implement an exercise routine.
Personally, I love lifting weights, walking on my treadmill or outdoors and lots of squats. I love squats.
Plus, I believe they may pay off when it comes time to give birth.
Don’t wait for a diagnosis of gestational diabetes.
Change your diet and incorporate exercise into your pregnancy to prevent the diagnosis before it happens.
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