With extra monitoring, women with gestational diabetes can have normal, healthy pregnancies.
How to Treat Gestational Diabetes in Pregnancy
We all know two things about eating during pregnancy: food choices are often based on cravings or what Mom can tolerate during morning sickness, and that a well-balanced diet is important for the health of the baby as well as the mother. While eating healthy foods is important no matter who you are, it can be especially important for pregnant mothers-to-be to eat well and give their baby the best start possible.
For women with gestational diabetes, getting proper nutrition can be a challenge. Women with gestational diabetes can stay healthy and have healthy babies, but it’s crucial to properly monitor and treat the condition to avoid any unnecessary complications. The perinatologists and certified nurse practitioners at the seven Valley Perinatal Services locations across the Phoenix area can help mothers with concerns about diabetes with specialized training, and personalized advice.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. In most women, it goes away after pregnancy, but it could return in future pregnancies, and some women could end up uncovering type 1 or type 2 diabetes that wasn’t there before pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is caused by changes in the body as a result of pregnancy hormones. When you’re pregnant, you produce high levels of many hormones, nearly all of which impair how your insulin cells function, and more hormones are produced as the baby grows. While these hormones do raise a mother’s blood sugar, in normal pregnancies this isn’t usually a problem because the pancreas can secrete enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels stable. In women with gestational diabetes, however, the pancreas can’t keep up with the increase in blood sugar. This extra blood sugar can lead to complications like high preeclampsia, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or excessive birth weight, low blood sugar, premature birth, a C-section birth for Mom, or type 2 diabetes for baby.
There are ways for mothers to keep their blood sugar and gestational diabetes under control. It requires some help and a bit of a learning curve, but it’s worth it to make sure that both of you stay healthy.
If you develop diabetes during your pregnancy, you may not necessarily know what to do. While you shouldn’t worry about all of the things that can go wrong, it’s important to keep the risks in mind and learn everything you can in order to better manage your gestational diabetes. This is where a maternal-fetal medicine specialist on your healthcare team can come in. These doctors know how to handle high-risk pregnancy situations, including those impacted by gestational diabetes, and will share that knowledge with you. The right team of experts can offer you counseling and care at all stages of your pregnancy, advise you on what your risks could be, and examine your health and the baby’s health to make sure that you’re both on track. They can help you manage your diabetes, help you understand how it affects your pregnancy, and provide training on when and how to use glucose (blood sugar) sensors, insulin pumps, and medication if you need them.
Preexisting diabetes conditions require specialized meal plans to keep blood sugar levels under control, and gestational diabetes is the same. It’s important to eat balanced meals with lots of vitamins and minerals as well as carbohydrates. Despite the risk of high blood sugar that comes with diabetes, glucose is still an important part of your diet because it provides fuel for your body as well as your baby’s. The key is to eat a lot of fiber and foods that are low on the glycemic index. A nutritionist or registered dietician can help you calculate the number of carbs that you need to eat in order to keep your glucose within your target range and teach you how to keep it there. Limit your intake of juice and other sweetened drinks, spread your meals and snacks out throughout the day to keep your blood sugar stable, and vary your food choices to make sure you’re getting everything that you and your baby need.
Regular physical activity is important for staying healthy in any pregnancy, but when you have gestational diabetes, exercise can also help you lower your blood sugar. Moderate exercise can stimulate your body to move glucose into your cells that is transformed into energy. While you should talk to your doctor before you start any exercise plan, when you’re pregnant, you’re generally safe picking exercises that are low-impact and won’t put your health or your baby’s health at risk: swimming, water aerobics, walking, and even dancing and playing with children can keep you active. Sports that involve balls, horseback riding, downhill skiing, and anything similarly intense should be avoided, due to the level of risk, additionally, in your first trimester, avoid exercises that require you to lie on your back.
For a lot of women, adjusting eating and exercise habits is enough to keep gestational diabetes under control. If you have difficulty controlling your diabetes through these means, medication can be added to her treatment regimen. Insulin injections are standard for gestational diabetes treatment, but there are options for fast-acting, intermediate, or long-acting insulin and oral medication options. Take any and all medications as prescribed.
Diabetes and Nutritional Management Programs at Valley
Making sure that you and your baby get the proper fuel is crucial to having a successful pregnancy that goes as well as possible. For women with gestational diabetes, it can be overwhelming to worry about nutrition on top of your diagnosis, and there is a lot to learn in a very short amount of time. That’s why Valley Perinatal is here to help Arizona mothers-to-be and their healthcare teams with their gestational diabetes care.
We have a specific program for diabetes care during pregnancy. Our team can create a nutrition program that fits your needs, whether you have preexisting diabetes, gestational diabetes, food allergies or intolerances, or are just concerned about your baby receiving the proper nutrition during your pregnancy. Our certified nurse practitioners can give you advice on nutrition and diabetes, meal and treatment plans, counseling sessions, and even insulin pump training and management for women who need it, regardless of how experienced you are with diabetes. Our team is also trained in specialized tests and services to make sure your little one is healthy throughout your pregnancy Talk with your Ob/Gyn about co-managing your pregnancy with Valley. Call 480.756.6000 or contact us online.