Five Tips for Managing Gestational Diabetes

BIDMC Contributor

NOVEMBER 24, 2020

A pregnant woman is eating healthy food at home.

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy, it’s important to know that you are not alone. According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 10 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are affected by gestational diabetes every year.

"The hormones that help develop your placenta can also produce insulin resistance. This makes it harder for your body to regulate blood sugar," says Chloe Zera, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at BIDMC. "There are some potential risks to you and your baby’s health, but gestational diabetes is very manageable. Most people end up with a healthy pregnancy."

Whether you have diabetes prior to getting pregnant or have gestational diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy, the key to managing your condition remains the same: keeping your blood sugar under control.

"Maintaining blood sugar levels requires some extra work," Zera says. "Your healthcare provider will help you to come up with a plan that works with your life to help adjust your diet, lifestyle and medication when needed."

People diagnosed with gestational diabetes are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. For that reason, you should be tested for diabetes at your postpartum visit. Make sure to let your primary care provider know so that you can get ongoing monitoring and advice on how to reduce your risks.

Here are five tips for managing your gestational diabetes:

Eat a Healthy Diet

Your provider will make recommendations for your diet, based on your personal needs. While there is not one magical formula, meal planning can be a helpful way to ensure a balance of starches, fruits, vegetables, proteins, milk and healthy fats.

Stay Active

Physical activities such as swimming, riding a bike or even just walking can help your body better regulate your blood sugar levels. "I tell my patients to listen to their bodies and ease back when they need to, but it’s almost always okay to continue your regular workout schedule, and in fact, can help control blood sugars," Zera says.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Depending on your weight before pregnancy, your healthcare provider will be able to tell you how much weight you should gain during your pregnancy. After pregnancy, returning to a healthy weight will help you to reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Know Your Blood Sugar Level

To control your blood sugar, you will need to test it regularly, up to four times per day:

  • First thing in the morning before you eat (fasting glucose)
  • One to two hours after breakfast
  • One to two hours after lunch
  • One to two hours after dinner

Many patients keep track of their blood sugar levels in a journal, including information about diet, exercise, and sleep, so they can determine how certain foods or activities affect them.

Take Medication If It's Needed

Even if you make a lot of changes, some people still need to take insulin or other medications during pregnancy to keep blood sugar under control. "Every pregnancy is different," Zera says. "With monitoring and help from your providers, gestational diabetes can be managed successfully."

Learn more about glucose testing and other helpful pregnancy resources.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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