How to Treat Gestational Diabetes

Diabetes was the last thing you were expecting when you found out you were pregnant. But now, you are about 24 weeks into your pregnancy, and your doctor has told you that you have gestational diabetes,which you didn't even know existed. Now you have arrived home in a frenzy for information:

Why do you have gestational diabetes? What do you do to treat your gestational diabetes? Will you have diabetes after the baby is born? Will the baby be overweight or diabetic?

First of all, you should know that you aren't alone; 18% of expecting mothers develop gestational diabetes--that's as many as 700,000 American women every single year. And secondly, you didn't get gestational diabetes because you did anything wrong. Some of the extra hormones, which help your baby grow, block insulin from reacting properly in your body. So don't fret: there is likely nothing you could have done differently to prevent the onset of diabetes.

The best thing you can do now for yourself and your baby is to manage your glucose levels rigorously. Here are some easy tips to help you treat your gestational diabetes to ensure that both you and your baby stay healthy:

  1. Exercise. Like Type 2 diabetes, women with gestational diabetes have too much glucose in their blood because they don’t produce enough insulin. Doing about 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can help to lower your blood glucose levels. Getting into a specific routine can help you make sure to get your exercise in every day. Could you go for a walk around your neighborhood before breakfast every morning? Or perhaps go for a swim at the community pool every afternoon? Whatever exercise routine makes sense to you, stick to it and do it regularly.
  2. Safety Note: Dangerously low blood glucose episodes are rare with gestational diabetes because insulin resistance is so high late in pregnancy. But, if you are prone to low blood glucose, keep in mind that it is safest to exercise after meals because you are less likely to experience lows.

  3. Develop a safe diet plan with a registered dietitian. It is important to keep in mind that your meal plan during pregnancy is not designed for weight loss. Dropping weight during your pregnancy could be harmful to both you and your baby. Instead, you want to focus on eating the right food, at the right time and in the right amount to help you manage your blood glucose throughout the day.
  4. Many women find that they don't know how to develop a pregnancy-safe diet that will keep their blood glucose in check. Luckily, expecting moms don't have to do it alone: registered dietitians can help. (Read more about developing a pregnancy-safe diet.)

  5. Monitor your blood glucose frequently. You will likely want to check your blood glucose at least 4 times a day. Blood glucose goals are much narrower for pregnant women than for people with Type 2 diabetes, so you want to be sure to monitor yourself often.
  6. Ask your doctor if she recommends using insulin. While insulin is recommended for some pregnant women, it is not recommended for others. Consult with your doctor to find out whether or not you should incorporate insulin into your treatment plan.

Note: During your third trimester, you'll become more insulin resistant. Therefore, your doctor may recommend increasing your insulin dose or mixing several types of insulin. Don't worry if you do need to increase your insulin dosage: it doesn't mean your diabetes is getting worse! This is merely the natural progression of a pregnancy.

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