What is Gestational Diabetes?
Often women without any previous history of diabetes experience high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester. This phase is clinically termed as Gestational Diabetes or Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. Often triggered by fluctuating insulin responses, a possible explanation for the same remains how the lactogen in the human placenta intermingles and hinders the activity of the usual insulin receptors. While the condition disappears after the birth of the baby, the consequences include an abnormally large head, hypoglycemia, jaundice etc. However, the more severe consequences include stillbirth or seizures in the newborn.
A varying chunk, around three to ten percent of the world’s pregnancies is affected by this complication going by the statistical surveys conducted. When left untreated, the baby can develop obesity in his childhood leading to type 2 diabetes in later life. On the other hand, the mother stands at the risk of C-section and pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure due to pregnancy). However, a few simple steps, a couple of do’s and don’ts can easily bring the situation under control. A proper food, an active lifestyle with some degree of physical activity and a couple of medications, mostly anti-diabetic drugs are more than enough to tackle with the disease.
The Big Do’s of Gestational Diabetes
- Check Blood Sugar at Regular Intervals
Closely monitor your blood sugar levels, multiple times every day. Most often, either gestational diabetes is not diagnosed or we do not monitor it closely enough and end up missing valuable information. You can raise some degree of information by visiting health care specialists in the nearby hospital or ask your doctor to convey the information himself. He can also put you through a couple of other important services that you definitely would not want to miss.
You can also opt for a home kit and use it to check your blood sugar levels in regular intervals. According to Asha Heard, MD at School of Medicine, Lousiana State University, New Orleans deduced the following blood sugar levels at different times and has been listed below in the table.
|Time||Blood Sugar Level|
|Fasting Blood Sugar Levels||95 mg/dL|
|One Hour Post-Prandial Blood Sugar Levels||130 mg/dL|
|Two Hours Post-Prandial Blood Sugar Levels||120 mg/dL|
Follow the pattern and try to keep your blood sugar levels as close to the designated numbers at different times of the day. This ensures that the circulation is effective. Over time, as you become accustomed to these frequent checks and the numbers, your health will improve.
- Follow a Diet
A balanced diet bears special significance during pregnancy. Both the nutrient intake as well as the calorie count is essential. A diet rich in micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other rare but important nutrients deserve your attention. Green leafy vegetables like bok choy, spinach, asparagus, kale, broccoli, are great for replenishing the depleted reserves of nutrients in the body. Iron, an important component of blood is responsible for the hemoglobin levels in the blood, an important parameter for determining the health.
Vitamin B, vitamin C and vitamin A are the most needed vitamins amongst the rest. Vitamin C is abundant in citrus fruits like sweet lime, grapefruit, oranges and what not. They contain large number of antioxidants, which will induce proper removal of wastes from the body and keep your blood stream clean. Vitamin A, on the other hand, occurs mostly as beta-carotene, a biological precursor of the nutrient. Colored foods like beet, bell peppers, pumpkin etc are rich in vitamin A.
Other than that, macronutrient options must be healthy. Brown rice, whole wheat and oats are great alternatives to the otherwise starchy food that we consume on a regular basis. Lean proteins from poultry and lean cut meat are great too. Plant proteins like beans and lentils with their high fiber content are great for the system too. Coming to fats, foods rich in essential fatty acids like fish, olives, and avocadoes are great for your body.
A certified dietitian will be able to personalize a diet chart for you taking your needs and your metabolism into consideration after evaluation.
- Never Skip Carbohydrates
Probably the biggest myth about diabetes is that diabetics must maintain safe distance from carbohydrates. However, the truth is a completely different story altogether. It is essential to keep your blood sugar levels in check when you are a diabetic. Carbohydrates are all sugars but the digestion and absorption process for refined carbohydrates and healthy carbohydrates are different.
Refined foods, like white bread, cheese, and butter dissociate rapidly in the blood stream and the blood sugar levels are spiked immediately because of their high glycemic index (GI). The organs cannot handle the sudden rush of carbohydrates and they stand at the risk of permanent damage. On the other hand, carbohydrates high in dietary fiber are dissociated slowly and are aptly named as foods with low glycemic index (GI). As the carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed, they are utilized during the daily activities making you alert and keeping you energized for a prolonged period of time.
Carbohydrates are broken down into monosaccharide, which are then utilized in multiple pathways to convert into ATP. This ATP, with its strong covalent bonds, release significant amount of energy when broken down. This fuels all the metabolic activities in the body, including supply of food, water and oxygen to the fetus and removal of toxic substances. If this does not stress on the importance of good carbohydrates, then we do not know what can.
- Remain Physically Active
Some amount of exercise is always recommended during pregnancies for healthy labor and to maintain good health in both the mother and the fetus. It regulates proper secretion of oxytocin and vasopressin, the pituitary hormones, which are responsible for childbirth. However, refrain from strenuous physical activities as they can take a toll on your health.
Other than running or speed walking, prenatal yoga, swimming, prenatal aerobics are excellent options. However, it must be practiced under the expert supervision of fitness experts. Yoga and aerobics have certain special exercises, which are beneficial for the fetus and the baby. Enroll in a special course for an hour of moderate physical activity. Sometimes swimming can require consuming amounts of standing and balancing. Such activities must be avoided at all costs.
Remember to put on light and loose fitting clothes for the gym. Profuse perspiration is not good for your health. Never skip meals to exercise on time. Drink enough water during, before and after exercising to keep your body hydrated. Flavored water like lemonade, freshly squeezed fruit juices are other great alternatives to water. However, if the day is particularly hot and humid, refrain from exercising. Other than that, always consult your doctor if you should indulge in remaining physically active. Under some circumstances, the doctors do advise complete bed rest.
- Learn About Your Breastfeeding Habits
Babies born from gestational diabetes must be subjected to exclusive breastfeeding, that is, the breast milk remains the sole source of food and nourishment for the body. The yellow milk, colostrum secreted from the mammary glands of the mother a day or two, post parturition and regular breast milk can help the baby avoid long-term health issues, including diabetes and obesity. It also strengthens their immune system and therefore allows their health to flourish over time.
There are a number factors and intricate details that you must learn about if you are suffering from gestational diabetes. Learn about them, do a thorough, in depth research and by the time the baby arrives, you will be prepared to deal with it. Lactation specialists, available at your nearest hospital or any other health institution can guide you better after going through your case details.
- Regular Follow Up Visits With Your Doctor
Follow up visits to the doctor diagnoses important underlying symptoms and can undo great damage. Often there is more to what the eye meets and only the expert eyes can diagnose the condition correctly and prevent harm.
Often, during the course of pregnancy, the dosage of the medications as well as the medications changes too. Regular follow up visits help in predicting these transitional phases of pregnancies beforehand and the medications prepare the body for the same.
- Sleep Well
Did you know that snoring is a sign of gestational diabetes too? Certain pregnancy hormones can lead to nasal congestion leading to increased snoring. Snoring, in general, is a sign of superficial sleep.
Sleeping well releases stress and strain from the body. Rejuvenating the body from within, it ensures that you and your baby’s health are not compromised in any way whatsoever. The added weight along with the sudden upsurge in the hormonal levels is bound to exhaust you but sleeping well helps you to cope up with the fatigue effectively.
A teaspoon of honey before going to bed activates serotonin release helping you to sleep better at night. However, refrain from it if your blood sugar levels have been on the higher, unhealthier side lately.
The Big Don’ts of Gestational Diabetes
- Do Not Skip Your Medications
With pregnancy, often comes the tendency to skip medications. The hormones are responsible for mood swings and frequent changes in taste buds. However, that is no excuse to compromise on the health factor. Anti-diabetic drugs, health supplements and other medications are highly important and must not be skipped. Often, insulin injections are also prescribed. Top 10 About Anything. This is just to keep the blood sugar levels in check. The latest discovery, long acting insulins is a better alternative for they are safer.
- Stay away from Sugary Goodness
As much as the cakes, pies and cookies tempt us, they are not good for your health. They contain large amounts of refined white flour and processed carbohydrates, which will increase your blood sugar levels immediately and damage organs like heart, blood vessels, liver and kidney.
Every time you are tempted or feel like you are craving for sugar, snack on raisins, prunes, dates and other sweet dry fruits, which are more than just sugar. The antioxidant content and the minute amounts of minerals contribute to your dietary needs too. Almonds, cashews, walnuts are rich in vitamins and have essential fatty acids that takes the nutritional level several notches higher and the calories count much lower.
- Do Not Fret Too Much Over Glucose Levels in the Diet
While it is okay to want to achieve those desirable figures as stated in the charts and directed by the nutritionist, it is sometimes difficult to achieve these targets. It is mainly because of your metabolism or other factors. Given the circumstances, try not to fret about it and let things take their natural course. Stress and tension will only aggravate your cardiovascular health and in turn, affect the baby. Thus, it is advisable to visit the doctor and take suitable measures as directed by them instead of trying things on your own. However, it is a good idea to pitch in your views to the doctor first before putting it into action.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and soft carbonated drinks
Alcohol dehydrates the body whereas soft carbonated drinks affect the pH levels of the digestive system. Not to forget, they are loaded with preservatives and unnecessary sugar that can be clogged in the blood stream without being utilized, remaining stagnated for long and then affecting the kidneys in the next cycle of blood purification. Caffeine, also reportedly hampers the development of Central Nervous System (CNS) in the fetus. Since CNS comprises of vital organs like spinal cord and brain other than important connecting nerves, caffeine goes straight off your list.
With the sedentary lifestyle, pollution and the changes in a gene pool, these complications in pregnancy have become very common. Some amount of knowledge gained from experts and valuable insights from thorough checkups along with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle are the basics for combating further complications during childbirth.
Also read: Type 2 diabetes food chart