Gestational Diabetes and Your Diet

Around the end of the second trimester, a glucose tolerance test will be performed on most pregnant women to check for signs of gestational diabetes. This form of diabetes affects only pregnant women, and while relatively rare, is serious for both mom and baby. Luckily, it is not difficult to control with the proper diet and monitoring.

The Basics of Gestational Diabetes

Having gestational diabetes does not mean there is any reason to suspect that you had diabetes prior to pregnancy, or that you will continue to have problems afterwards. Although no one is certain what exactly causes it, there is reason to believe that hormones from the placenta may cause insulin resistance. This is a condition where the action of insulin in the blood to work on glucose and turn it into energy is blocked, leaving high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. This results in hyperglycemia.

The extra glucose in your blood will cross the placenta and enter the baby’s blood. This causes the baby’s pancreas to secrete more insulin in response. High insulin levels in newborns have been linked to breathing problems and a higher likelihood of obesity later in life. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are often larger than average, as they have received too much energy in the form of glucose.

How to Treat Gestational Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, one of the first things your doctor will recommend is a major overhaul of your diet. You will require a special eating plan, and will probably be told to monitor your blood sugar levels. Although you should discuss your new meal plan with your doctor, there are some general recommendations to follow to eat right and control the symptoms of gestational diabetes.

What to Eat

Glucose levels in your blood are directly related to the foods you eat. The foods that cause the highest levels of glucose are carbohydrates, so any woman diagnosed with gestational diabetes will have to be very careful about eating the right carbs. You shouldn’t give up carbs altogether – this isn’t healthy for you or your baby. But you will need to get your carbs from the right sources.

Skip simple carbs, especially anything high in sugar. Instead, choose the complex carbs found in whole grain foods. These will break down more slowly in your body and prevent spikes in blood glucose that can be caused from fast-acting sugars and refined carbs. Be sure to balance your intake of carbs throughout the day. Avoid having a large amount at one meal; instead, spread your intake out over several meals.

Another thing to remember is that you should eat throughout the day. Don’t skip meals or snacks. Eating regularly keeps a steady level of energy and prevents urges to overeat or eat the wrong things due to hunger.

Although it may be tempting to switch to artificial sweeteners to fill the gap left by the sugar in your diet, try not to give in. Not all artificial sweeteners are safe during pregnancy, and even those generally thought to be ok simply don’t have enough research behind them to be absolutely certain of their safety.

The restrictions of a gestational diabetes diet are not always easy to follow, but remember that you are doing it for your baby’s health. Also bear in mind that it will not be forever; you only have to continue with the diet until the end of your pregnancy, at which point the gestational diabetes will be at an end.

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