Gestational diabetes only develops during pregnancy and is characterized by high blood glucose levels in the mother. Changing hormones and weight gain during pregnancy can influence its development. The symptoms of this condition are often mild -- if they occur at all -- and may include increased thirst and more frequent urination. It’s usually detected by routine blood tests conducted around the sixth month of pregnancy. Following a careful diet may help prevent and control gestational diabetes. Here’s a look at the guidelines of a gestational diabetes diet.
Who Develops Gestational Diabetes?
Some pregnant women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes. In particular, if you’re over 25 years old, overweight, experienced gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, have a familial history of diabetes, or already prediabetic, the risk is greater. Certain genetic backgrounds, such as African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander women, are more likely to develop the condition. Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that generally resolves with the baby’s birth, but women who have had this condition are more likely to develop adult-onset diabetes later in life.
Maintaining a Healthy Diet
Women facing one or more risk factors for gestational diabetes may help prevent its onset by carefully managing their diet. Additionally, women with gestational diabetes can improve their condition by following a diabetes diet. This diet is designed to keep blood sugar levels stable to preserve and improve both maternal and fetal health.
If you have gestational diabetes, eat smaller meals and healthy snacks at regular intervals to keep blood sugar levels stable. Make sure to eat protein and carbohydrates together. Protein can prevent blood sugar from rising too fast because of carbohydrates. High-fiber foods should figure prominently in your diet, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Because sweet and sugary foods can send blood sugar skyrocketing, avoid them completely if possible.
Morning sickness can be especially problematic in the face of gestational diabetes. Experts recommend expectant mothers eat easily digestible carbohydrates, such as crackers or pretzels, during periods of nausea. However, women who don’t suffer from morning sickness should eat a high protein breakfast, like eggs. Limit carbohydrates when possible, because they can also make blood sugar levels go haywire.
Be sure to drink plenty of fluids -- including at least eight 8-ounce cups of water a day. This will keep internal systems well functioning and ensure the body stays hydrated. All types of diabetes, including gestational diabetes, upset the water balance in the body. Drinking plenty of fluids also helps support the kidneys, which have to work harder to filter out the excess blood sugar when diabetes is present.
Complications of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes can impact both maternal and fetal health. The blood can become highly acidic, causing ketoacidosis. Additionally, gestational diabetes may cause birth defects, particularly in the extremities, and may even lead to miscarriage. A woman with gestational diabetes should take extra care to be sure she is meeting her and her baby's nutritional needs. If necessary, make an appointment with a dietitian or a nutritionist.