Every year, almost 10% of pregnant women in the United States develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually occurs in the third trimester, when the hormones that your placenta produces to nourish the baby also interfere with the way you use insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that your body needs to transport blood sugar into your cells for energy. If your body becomes insulin resistant due to excess placental hormones, your pancreas must work extra hard to produce more and more insulin. But your body still can’t use it.
Because gestational diabetes develops after your baby is almost completely formed, it doesn’t cause major deformities, but it can affect your baby’s health. For instance, gestational diabetes may make your baby larger or fatter than normal, which makes it harder to deliver and puts the baby itself at risk for diabetes later in life.
At Health Solutions, our expert medical team provides women’s health care for gestational diabetes at our offices in Tinley Park, Rockford, and Olympia Fields, Illinois, and Munster, Indiana. If you develop diabetes during your pregnancy, here’s what to do to keep yourself and your baby safe.
See us more often
If you’ve developed gestational diabetes, you now have a high-risk pregnancy. That doesn’t mean you have to worry, but it does mean that you and your baby must be monitored more closely and more often.
During your visits, we test your blood to monitor your blood sugar. We also may take ultrasounds to check on your baby’s development to make sure that all is normal.
Gestational diabetes puts you at risk for a serious, life-threatening condition called preeclampsia. It also puts your baby at risk for serious complications, such as:
- Preterm birth
- Excessive birth weight
- Breathing difficulties
- Low blood sugar
- Still birth
Just as your baby’s at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, you are too. You’re also more likely to develop the condition during a subsequent pregnancy.
Focus on healthy foods
Even though you’re eating for two, you shouldn’t eat much more than normal or gain too much weight during your pregnancy. In fact, if you’re a normal weight you should only gain 25-35 pounds by your 9th month. If you’re overweight, don’t gain more than 15-25 pounds total.
Whatever you eat should be healthy for both you and your baby. That means no:
- Processed foods
- Trans fats
- Junk food
Instead, go for fresh foods that are nutrient dense and low in sugar. Great picks include:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Whole grains
- Pastured meats, poultry, and eggs
- Small fish, such as sardines
Avoid large fish, such as tuna, which may have high levels of mercury. Also avoid soft cheeses, such as brie, which may have high levels of bacteria.
Stay — or get — active
In your third trimester, you may feel too bulky to hit the gym, but getting exercise is more important than ever, for both you and your baby. Make sure you get at least 30 minutes of brisk exercise per day, at the gym, at home, or wherever you can.
If you’ve been sedentary, we can custom-design a fitness plan that helps you increase your activities gradually. Activities that work your cardiovascular system, build stronger muscles, and increase your flexibility are all important.
Choose activities that you truly enjoy as well as those that push your boundaries a bit. Take long walks in nature. Dance as if nobody’s watching (carefully)! Swim. Ride a bike. Vary your choices to keep it exciting.
Eating better food and exercising more may also help you lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Carrying too much weight is unhealthy for you and your baby and also puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes after delivery.
Test your blood sugar
Depending on how severe your gestational diabetes is, we may recommend insulin injections if your blood sugar goes too high. Eating raises your blood sugar, but you shouldn’t experience serious spikes if you’re making healthy choices. Test your blood sugar before and after meals to see if you’re normal:
- 95 mg/dl or less before a meal
- 140 mg/dl or less one hour after a meal
- 120 mg/dl or less two hours after a meal
Be sure you use your insulin as prescribed if your blood sugar is too high.
Proper prenatal care can reduce your risk for gestational diabetes. So can losing weight and improving your health before becoming pregnant. We test all pregnant women for gestational diabetes as part of our prenatal care program.
If you’re pregnant, get the care you need with our women’s health programs. If you already have gestational diabetes, schedule a check-up today by calling our expert team or booking an appointment with our online form.