Gestational diabetes can cause problems for both mother and baby. This article explains how with professional guidance and a carefully planned diet, the condition can be managed for a healthy and happy pregnancy.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs for the first time during pregnancy. Diabetes develops when the body is unable to efficiently produce insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating healthy blood sugar levels. During pregnancy, the body produces extra insulin to meet the needs of the growing fetus, especially in the third trimester.
Some women are not able to produce the additional insulin needed and because of this, their blood sugar levels rise and they are at risk of developing gestational diabetes. High blood sugar levels may cause the baby to grow large, increasing the risk of complications during birth. There is also evidence that suggests babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to become obese or suffer from
type 2 diabetes as they grow older.
Managing gestational diabetes
If your doctor or midwife suspect that you are at risk of developing gestational diabetes, they will arrange for you to have an oral glucose tolerance test approximately half way through your pregnancy. Although some women need to have insulin injections to manage gestational diabetes, most are able to control the condition by carefully following a specific meal plan to regulate blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes meal plan
If you have gestational diabetes, it is strongly recommended that you visit a registered dietician to help you plan a pregnancy diet that’s individually tailored to you. However, the basic principle of a gestational diabetes meal plan is to restrict the amount of carbohydrate food that is eaten to prevent high blood sugar levels developing. A typical gestational diabetes diet plan would include:
- A small, well-balanced breakfast with a small portion of carbohydrate and a larger portion of protein, such as one slice of toast and an egg. You might have to avoid fruit juices which are high in natural sugars.
- Three small meals and several small snacks eaten at regular intervals throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable. It is important that your meals and snacks are nutritionally balanced, and should contain plenty of non-starchy vegetables, fruit, low fat protein rich foods such as tuna and chicken and a source of calcium from low fat dairy products.
- Avoidance of foods rich in simple sugars such as fizzy drinks, flavoured tea, sweets and desserts. These foods can cause your blood sugar level to rise very quickly, it is best to avoid them completely or look for alternative products which contain artificial sweeteners.