Controlling Gestational Diabetes

About 1 in 100 women of childbearing age has diabetes before they become pregnant.

Another 2% to 3% develop diabetes for the first time during pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes.

While the risks of diabetes in pregnancy have been greatly reduced, pregnant women with this disorder face some additional stresses. They must see their doctors/midwives more often than most non-diabetic women, follow a carefully prescribed diet and monitor their blood sugar levels several times a day. In some instances, insulin injections may be required. Although these steps will improve the outlook for a healthy baby, they may also lead to additional stress for the mother.

If you are experiencing diabetes or gestational diabetes, your provider may suggest a number of things for you to consider:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Insulin

And place a strong emphasis on:

  • Monitoring your blood glucose and urine at home

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is one of the most common complications of pregnancy. It usually develops during the second half of pregnancy when hormones interfere with the body`s ability to produce insulin. Unlike other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes usually goes away when the baby is born. However, women who experience gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing diabetes in the future.

Most women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar levels with diet, although 10% to 15% require insulin injections.

Diet

A pregnant woman with diabetes should follow a special diet designed for her. For women with preexisting diabetes, dietary modifications will also be required as pregnancy progresses.

How many calories a pregnant woman with diabetes should eat, and the proportion of foods from the various food groups will depend on many factors including height, weight, stage of pregnancy, and the baby`s growth rate. A nutritionist will work to help you plan your diet.

Exercise

Exercise can help control diabetes by prompting the body to use insulin more efficiently. However, you should always consult with our health care providers about starting or continuing your exercise program.

Insulin

Many women with preexisting diabetes require insulin injections to keep their blood sugar levels under control. Insulin requirements change during pregnancy, generally increasing after 20 to 24 weeks and stabilizing by about 36 weeks.

Most pregnant women with gestational diabetes do not require insulin. However, if blood sugar levels do not stabilize after 2 weeks on a special diet, one or more insulin injections may be needed daily for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Monitoring Blood Glucose and Urine at Home

To measure how effectively your diet, exercise, and insulin (if you require it) are controlling your blood glucose, you will need to monitor your blood glucose levels several times each day. You may also be asked to perform a urine test to measure the levels of ketones in your urine. Moderate to large amounts of ketones in the urine can be a sign of complications that must be promptly reported.

Reprinted with permission from Her Healthcare.