Seven tips to help you manage gestational diabetes

Are you worried because you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes? Read on for seven tips to help you manage it throughout your pregnancy.

Pregnancy is one of the most physically challenging experiences women can go through. However, on top of the usual strains of pregnancy, 2-10% of all pregnant women also experience gestational diabetes as well.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs when the body can’t produce enough insulin to meet the increased demands of pregnancy. This means that blood sugar levels are no longer in control and can drop or spike outside the normal range.

There’s no way to predict 100% if you’ll experience gestational diabetes during a pregnancy, but factors that put you at higher risk include:

  • If you’re not physically active
  • If you’re overweight or obese
  • If you have prediabetes
  • If you have an immediate family member with diabetes
  • If you’ve had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
  • If you have polycystic ovary syndrome
  • If you’ve delivered a baby previously who weighed more than 9 pounds

Seven tips to help you manage gestational diabetes

The good news, however, is that even if you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, with proper planning and care it’s manageable, and you can protect your and your baby’s health. Here are seven tips to help you manage gestational diabetes.

1) Monitor your blood glucose level

By testing your blood sugar level regularly, you can easily keep track of your level and make adjustments as necessary.

And testing your blood sugar level is a simple task. You can test it manually by pricking your finger and sampling the drop of blood with a blood glucose meter (a.k.a. a glucometer). Or you can take advantage of continuous glucose monitors, which can automatically track your glucose level and send regular updates and alerts to your smartphone.

2) Eat a balanced and nutritious diet

Following a balanced diet is a critical part of managing gestational diabetes, ensuring you not only keep your blood sugar level in control but also get all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need to support a healthy pregnancy.

Focus on a mix of nutrient-rich foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Make sure you include fibre in your diet to aid digestion and help support blood sugar control. Include iron, calcium and folic acid to support your well-being and your baby’s growth. And limit carbohydrates, high-sugar foods, and foods with a high glycemic index to decrease the risk of blood glucose level spikes.

3) Get regular physical exercise

Being physically active is vital to managing gestational diabetes. Regular exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity, supports blood sugar regulation, and reduces the risk of complications – It can also help improve mood and promote better sleep.

Safe exercises include brisk walking, swimming, or prenatal yoga. You should also look out opportunities to include movement in your daily life, like taking short walks or using the stairs.

However, before starting any new exercise program while you are pregnant, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. They can provide guidance and recommendations, making sure your exercise plans are suitable for you.

4) Practice stress management

Stress can have a significant impact on gestational diabetes and your blood glucose levels. So learning to recognise and manage it is essential.

Practising mindfulness, deep breathing, and gentle exercise can help promote relaxation. You can support this further by including soothing activities in your daily routine, like listening to relaxing music, going for a peaceful walk, or taking a warm bath.

Your emotional well-being can also play an important role. Seek out activities that are calming and bring you joy, connect with your loved ones, and if needed, seek out professional help from a counsellor.

Prioritising your self-care and managing your stress can be a powerful tool, helping smooth and ease your journey with gestational diabetes.

5) Take your medications regularly

If your doctor prescribes you medication or insulin as part of your gestational diabetes treatment plan, make sure you take it regularly and closely follow the recommended schedule.

The key to maintaining stable blood sugar levels is consistency. Your medications will help you with that, but they’ll be much less effective if you’re taking them at irregular times and you’ll be more likely to have drops and spikes in your glucose level.

Talk to your doctor about any medications they prescribe. Discuss any concerns you may have, and make sure you understand your medications and know exactly when and how regularly you’re supposed to take them – This is particularly important if you’ve been prescribed insulin.

6) Get regular prenatal check-ups

Regular prenatal check-ups provide a window into your baby’s well-being. They help your doctor monitor your baby’s growth, detect any possible issues, and make adjustments to your care plan.

By making sure you attend these check-ups regularly, you’re taking a proactive approach toward your and your baby’s health and giving yourself the best chance of tackling any potential complications as early as possible.

And when you see your doctor, it’s important to build and maintain open communication. Discuss any changes you’ve noticed, ask any questions you have, and don’t be afraid to share any challenges you may be experiencing. This will help ensure you have the best possible care throughout your pregnancy.

Managing gestational diabetes can be tough, but by developing a collaborative relationship with your doctor, you can make it easier.

7) Look to the future

If you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, it’s important to recognise that your risk of developing diabetes after delivery is increased as well.

Adopting long-term lifestyle changes during your pregnancy, and maintaining them after, will help reduce this risk. So keep up with your regular exercise, stick to your healthy diet, proactively manage your stress, maintain your support network, and make sure you attend postpartum check-ups with your doctor.

The habits you develop during pregnancy are an investment you’re making in your long-term health and can help support you beyond your pregnancy.

You can still have a healthy pregnancy and delivery

Gestational diabetes is a complex condition. But by growing your knowledge and developing some simple, proactive strategies to manage it you can still have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

And by making healthy lifestyle choices during your pregnancy, you put yourself in a great position to keep them going into the future. Which reduces your long-term risk of diabetes and supports your health and overall well-being for years to come.

It’s also important to remember that diabetes is a very personal condition, and how it affects people varies from person to person. So make sure to track how it affects you individually, and share your observations with your doctor. This will help them provide advice tailored to you and your condition, and give you the best chance of success.

Author: Kritika Singh is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of InDiabetes, a website that makes diabetes easy to understand, manage, and treat. Kritika is a type 1 diabetic, and has been managing her diabetes for over 15 years. She has a background in education, and is passionate about helping diabetics and diabetic primary caregivers increase their knowledge and improve their daily lives.