Congratulations, you’re pregnant! This is an exciting time for you. As you tread along this beautiful journey to motherhood, you should be aware of the risks you might face. Gestational diabetes is one of these risks. Find out the steps you can take so you and your developing baby stay healthy.
Gestational diabetes symptoms are diagnosed only during pregnancy. Remember, your body will go through a lot of changes. And during this time, your metabolism could be affected. The placenta releases certain hormones that affect insulin production1. Your body will have to make three times its normal insulin amount to overcome these hormones.2
This condition is fairly common. In Malaysia, one study showed that prevalence of gestational diabetes among antenatal women was 27.9%. Risk factors include age, obesity, previous history of gestational diabetes, as well as family history. For example, women aged 35 years old and above are more likely to get diagnosed.3 However, it can cause serious health problems if not treated or controlled. Read on to know treatment options even before you start showing gestational diabetes symptoms.
Monitoring your pregnancy
Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed during the second trimester—between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy—and goes away after delivery.4 Women who are obese or have family history of diabetes are considered at high risk.5 In these cases, the doctor will have to do a screen test as early as your first prenatal visit.
For the most part, gestational diabetes symptoms are not noticeable or don't show up at all. Though women reportedly are thirstier and urinate more often.6 If you get diagnosed, it is important that you control your blood sugar levels to avoid problems such as having a large developing baby, miscarriage, preeclampsia (sudden rise in blood pressure and swelling), and hypolycemia (low blood sugar).7
Tips to manage gestational diabetes
The best way to manage gestational diabetes is to practise a healthy lifestyle.8 This includes a well-balanced diet, exercise, and monitoring your blood sugar levels at home. Even if you don’t show gestational diabetes symptoms, learn how to control your eating habits and follow your doctor’s advice for a safe and healthy pregnancy.
To control gestational diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels in the normal range. You can do this by modifying your diet. It is recommended that you work with your doctor or a dietitian for an effective meal plan, including the amount and type of food that is safe to eat.9 You should do this even before showing gestational diabetes symptoms.
To start, take note of your carbohydrates intake.10 Avoid consuming too many in one meal. Stick to food containing complex carbohydrates, like fiber. Go for food with a low glycemic index as well. These include brown rice, whole wheat pasta, lentils, beans, and chickpeas. All of these will help release sugar into the blood slowly.
Eating protein together with carbohydrates can also help control blood sugar levels. Fish, chicken, tofu, legumes, and quinoa are lean sources of protein. Eat your fruits and vegetables too! You can aim for at least five portions a day.11
Avoid processed, sugary food, although you don’t need to go sugar-free either. Replace your usual desserts and pastries with healthier options such as fruits, nuts, seeds, and yoghurt. What you drink counts too! Stick to water instead and limit sugary drinks and caffeine intake.
Watching your food portions is important. It is recommended to consume three small to medium meals with two to four snacks in between each day.12 The key is to eat little and often. This will help with the unnecessary binge which can lead to quick weight gain.
Get at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity minimum of three times a week.13 This could be brisk walking, swimming, or aerobic and resistance exercise. Make sure you get your doctor’s approval first before trying out anything.
Seek Medical Advice
In most cases, gestational diabetes goes away after delivery. If not, some women are prescribed with certain medications, especially when blood sugar levels are not controlled after weeks of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. These can be in the form of tablets or insulin injections.14 Follow-up care is key to your treatment. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and consult your health professionals for advice. If you're diagnosed, the goal is to control your blood sugar levels. Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle and taking in medications can help do this
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