What is gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes (high blood sugar) that develops during pregnancy. It affects women who did not have diabetes before pregnancy. The main reason is hormonal imbalance, making it difficult for your body to produce enough insulin to control increased sugar levels in your blood. It can lead to a higher risk of health problems for the mother and baby. Treatment typically involves changes to diet and exercise and, in some cases, insulin therapy.
What are the risks to the mother?
- High blood pressure and preeclampsia
- Increased risk of needing an instrumental delivery (vacuum/forceps) or caesarean section
- Increased risk of vaginal tearing, including damage to the anal sphincter
- Risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life
- Increased risk of blood sugar problems during future pregnancies
What are the risks to the baby?
- Increased risk of macrosomia (large baby)
- Increased risk of placental problems, including fetal growth restriction (small baby)
- Increased risk of respiratory distress syndrome (breathing difficulty) and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in the newborn
- Increased risk of stillbirth
- Increased risk of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
How is GDM managed?
Well-controlled blood sugars are the key to minimising risk in GDM:
- Early referral to an endocrinologist: An endocrinologist is a hormone specialist who will help monitor and manage your diabetes.
- Diet: See below.
- Physical activity: Maintaining regular physical activity like walking, swimming, and exercising helps control and regulate blood sugar levels.
- Blood sugar monitoring: Regular blood sugar monitoring, usually 4 times daily, to monitor levels and ensure they stay within a safe range.
- Medication: In some cases, tablets or insulin therapy may be necessary to regulate blood sugar levels.
- Close monitoring of baby’s growth: regular growth ultrasounds are recommended.
- Induction of labour: Delivery on or before your due date may be recommended depending on the severity of diabetes or concerns with the baby’s growth.
What is a diabetic diet?
A healthy, balanced diet is the best diet for gestational diabetes. The following dietary guidelines may help manage gestational diabetes:
- Maximise fibre-rich carbohydrates: Choose whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Limit added sugars: Avoid sugary drinks and processed foods high in added sugars.
- Control portion sizes: Eat smaller, frequent meals to help control blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight.
- Include protein with each meal: Choose lean protein sources, such as chicken, fish, beans, and tofu, to help regulate blood sugar levels.
- Limit saturated and trans fats: Avoid unhealthy fats in fried foods, processed and baked foods.
- Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated can help regulate blood sugar levels.