What is gestational diabetes?
When diabetes starts during pregnancy, it is called gestational diabetes. Women with diabetes (diagnosed before or during pregnancy) need special care during their pregnancies.
Diabetes is a condition that prevents the body from processing food properly. The body receives its major source of energy from a sugar known as glucose. Insulin, a hormone manufactured in the pancreas, must be available for glucose to be used in the tissues. During pregnancy, some of the hormones produced by the placenta have a blocking effect on insulin. Gestational diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces its maximum amount of insulin, yet that is not enough to overcome the effect of the placenta’s hormones.
All moms-to-be are routinely screened for gestational diabetes, typically around 28 weeks of pregnancy. The screening involves an oral glucose tolerance test. If this test is abnormal, a more extensive oral glucose tolerance test is often performed. Women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes if two or more of the glucose levels in the additional test are abnormal.
What changes can I begin to make once I’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes?
At Virginia Women’s Center, if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will meet with one of our health care providers for a diabetic counseling visit. At this visit, your health care provider will help you learn what diet and exercise changes you may need to make to manage gestational diabetes. He or she will also educate you on how to test your blood glucose levels.
From the time you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes to the time you have your diabetic counseling visit, you can begin to incorporate the following changes in your diet:
- Replace sugary beverages (i.e. sodas, juices) with water
- Stop eating anything that has concentrated sweets (i.e. cookies, desserts, ice cream)
- Try to eat more protein (i.e. eggs, meat, peanut butter, cheese) and green vegetables
- Begin to reduce your overall carbohydrate intake, avoiding foods that are made with white flour (i.e. pastas, rice, breads, tortillas); substitute whole grains for white flour wherever possible
How can I prepare for my diabetic counseling appointment?
In preparation for your diabetic counseling visit, we encourage you to:
- Come with questions. You may find it helpful to bring a friend or family member to your appointment to help you remember something that you may forget or miss.
- Share any symptoms you are experiencing with your health care provider.
- Record everything you eat in a food diary for three days. This can help your health care provider make specific recommendations on areas for improvement.
- Be open to making healthy dietary changes. Remember, these changes are important for your health and your baby’s health!
- Don’t be afraid – the diet isn’t that bad!
Most women who develop gestational diabetes will have more frequent prenatal visits. These visits will be important for monitoring your health and your baby’s health as well as for discussing your diet and exercise routine. Following the diet recommendations and getting regular exercise should help maintain your blood glucose levels. For some, however, this is not enough. Some women may need to take a medication or use daily insulin injections to help control their blood glucose. Your physician or nurse practitioner will carefully monitor your levels throughout your pregnancy and advise if this is necessary.
- Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes
- Frequently Asked Questions on Gestational Diabetes
- Healthy Weight Management