How to Control Blood Sugar With Gestational Diabetes

DenaOctober 21, 2022

During my twin pregnancy, one of the first things that my doctor told me was that I was at increased risk for gestational diabetes. Gratefully, I did not develop this condition, however, through the pregnancy I remained mindful of the risk factors and worked to stay healthy and avoid any complications. In today’s post I will share some of what I learned while researching gestational diabetes in hopes of helping other mamas-to-be to avoid it or manage it if it arises.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that gestational diabetes can result in you and your baby having health problems during pregnancy and after delivery. Also, according to them, 50% of pregnant women with gestational diabetes will have type 2 diabetes later in life.

Good control of your blood sugar level will lower your and your baby’s risk of having health problems associated with the condition. Let’s look at exactly what every woman should know when it comes to blood glucose levels with gestational diabetes.

What Is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is when you develop high blood sugar for the first time during pregnancy, usually during the second and third trimesters.

It occurs when your body cannot produce enough insulin to overcome the effects of some pregnancy hormones. These hormones, such as estrogen and human placental lactogen, are produced by the placenta and are known to have an anti-insulin effect.

Gestational diabetes can cause problems for you and your baby during pregnancy, delivery, or after birth. However, with proper management, you can expect a smooth and healthy journey… when expecting.

What Are the Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) does not have any specific symptoms. When symptoms occur, they are often mild observations like:

  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased thirst
  • Having to pee more than usual
  • Being more hungry than usual

Because most of the early symptoms of GDM are often associated with pregnancy, they may not necessarily be considered signs of gestational diabetes. GDM is often tested for and diagnosed during the routine prenatal screening of every pregnancy. Two major tests are often used: the glucose challenge test and the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). They involve taking a sweet drink prepared by your doctor to determine your blood sugar levels.

How Do I Control My Blood Sugar Levels if I Have Gestational Diabetes?

Like every other type of diabetes, the key to effectively managing gestational diabetes is to control your blood glucose level as much as possible. Having a normal blood sugar level will help you and your baby stay healthy throughout your pregnancy. To achieve this, your management plans should include:

1. Diet modification

Like other types of diabetes, eating a healthy diet will help keep your blood sugar level normal. Ensure that you eat fiber-containing foods such as wheat, brown rice, brown bread, and oats. In addition, increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables and lean proteins such as fish, tofu, turkey, and beans would be best.

You should avoid taking sugary foods such as sweet candies, cakes, cookies, and other baked snacks. Also, reduce sugary drinks such as carbonated drinks, certain fruit juices, and smoothies. Instead, it would help if you replace these drinks with plenty of water.

You should aim to eat a well-balanced meal and watch your portion sizes. If you are confused about getting started, you should consult a dietitian for guidance. Diabetes monitoring apps like Klinio provide a personalized diet plan curated by certified nutritionists. You can also adopt the plate method of eating recommended by the American Diabetes Association to create your diabetes meal plans.

2. Exercise regularly

Physical inactivity is not good for your overall health, including your blood sugar levels. Therefore, regular exercise can help keep your blood glucose level within the desired range.

However, before you start working out during pregnancy, you should ask your doctor whether it’s okay to do so and what specific exercises would be suitable in the current condition. A common recommendation is to aim for at least 150 minutes in a week or 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises for 5 days a week. This could include brisk walking, swimming, dancing, tennis, and running.

Also, before starting to work out, ensure you have a normal blood sugar level. You also should keep with you foods such as snacks that you can quickly eat in case your blood sugar becomes too low while exercising.

3. Monitor your blood sugar level regularly

One of the first steps to achieving good glycemic control is regularly checking your blood sugar level. You should do this multiple times a day. Your physician will teach you how, when, and how often to check your blood glucose level as well as what levels you should aim for.

You will be given a testing kit containing a glucometer, testing strips, finger prick, and lancets to check your blood sugar levels. Using this kit involves connecting the testing strip to the glucometer device. Then, you will prick your finger slightly with the finger pricker and use the lancet to put a drop of your blood on the testing strip. It will display your blood sugar level in less than 30 seconds.

However, if your management plans involve using some blood glucose lowering drugs such as insulin, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) may be recommended for you. With this, you can monitor your blood sugar level 24 hours a day. Klinio, a blood sugar monitoring app, can also help monitor your blood sugar level.

Medications

Changing your diet and working out may not be sufficient later in your pregnancy to achieve normal blood sugar levels. You may subsequently need to take blood glucose-lowering pills or even require insulin injections.

Metformin is the most common of these pills and is often taken 3 times a day with or after meals or as your doctor recommends. Insulin injection is often recommended if you have a very high blood glucose level or if metformin and other pills do not sufficiently lower your blood sugar level. The injection is like a pen. It has mechanisms to help you inject the right dose of insulin safely. Your doctor will tell you when and how to take these insulin injections.

Because these medications can result in low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), you should look out for the symptoms of hypoglycemia. This may include sweating, loss of focus, or loss of consciousness.

What Should Be My Target Blood Sugar if I Have Gestational Diabetes?

The American Diabetes Association recommends the following target blood sugar levels for pregnant women with gestational diabetes:

  • Before a meal: 95mg/dL or 5.3mmol/L or less
  • An hour after a meal: 140mg/dL or 7.8mmol/L or less
  • Two hours after a meal: 120mg/dL or 8.5mmol/L or less

To Wrap Up

Gestational diabetes is a common condition that affects pregnant women. However, it is treatable and can be well-managed. Eating healthy foods, regular exercise, and monitoring your blood glucose level will help you control your blood sugar levels.

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