Diet for pregnant women with diabetes (gestational diabetes)

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Foods to eat with gestational diabetes – this list of foods will help keep your blood sugar level in a healthy range.

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy (gestation). Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your cell use sugar (glucose). Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health.

When you are pregnant, your body naturally becomes more resistant to insulin so that more glucose is available to nourish your body. For most mom-to-be, this isn’t a problem. When your body needs additional insulin to process excess glucose in the blood, the pancreas secretes more. But if the pancreas can’t keep up with the increased demand for insulin during pregnancy, blood sugar levels rise too high because the cells aren’t using the glucose. This results in gestational diabetes.

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Any pregnancy complication is concerning, but there’s a good news. Expectant mums can help control gestational diabetes by eating healthy foods, exercising, and if necessary, taking medications. Controlling blood sugar can prevent a difficult birth and keep you and your baby healthy.

If you have gestational diabetes, your baby doesn’t have an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes during childhood. However, your child is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life as well as be overweight throughout life.

In gestational diabetes, blood sugar usually returns to normal soon after delivery. But if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you are at risk for type 2 diabetes. You’ll continue working with your health care team to monitor and manage your blood sugar.

However, gestational diabetes can cause problems such as:

  • The baby growing larger than usual which may lead to difficulties during the delivery and increases the need for induced labour or a caesarean section.
  • Too much amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds the baby) in the womb, which can cause premature labour or delivery problems.
  • Premature birth, i.e giving birth before the 37th week of pregnancy.
  • The baby developing low blood sugar or yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) after he or she is born.
  • Loss of the baby (stillbirth) – though it is rare.

Foods to eat with gestational diabetes

Symptoms of gestational 

For most women, gestational diabetes doesn’t cause noticeable signs and symptoms. Some women may develop symptoms if their blood sugar gets too high (hyperglycaemia), such as:

  • increased thirst
  • a dry mouth
  • needing to pee more often than usual
  • tiredness

Some of these symptoms are common during pregnancy and aren’t necessarily a sign of a problem.

Causes of gestational diabetes

Researchers don’t know why some women develop gestational diabetes. To understand how gestational diabetes occurs, it can help to understand how pregnancy affects your body’s glucose processing.

Your body digests the food you eat to produce sugar (glucose) that enters your bloodstream. In response, your pancreas produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose move from your bloodstream into your body’s cells, where it’s used as energy.

During pregnancy, the placenta which connects your body to your blood supply produces high levels of various other hormones. Almost all of them impair the action of insulin in your cells, raising your blood sugar. Modest elevation of blood sugar is after meals is normal during pregnancy.

As your baby grows, the placenta produces more and more insulin-blocking hormones. In gestational diabetes, the placental hormones provoke a rise in blood sugar to a level that can affect the growth and welfare of your baby. Gestational diabetes usually develops during the last half of pregnancy – sometimes as early as the  20th week, but generally not until later.

Risk factors

Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:

  • age greater than 25
  • family or personal health history
  • excess weight or being obese
  • having a medical condition such as glucose intolerance
  • having polycystic ovarian syndrome (POS)
  • you’ve had a big baby before (macrosomia)
  • taking certain medications such as glucocorticoids (for asthma or an autoimmune disease), beta-blockers (for high blood pressure or a rapid heart rate), or antipsychotic drugs (for mental health problems)

Foods to eat with gestational diabetes

  • Eat protein with every meal
  • Always include daily fruits and vegetables in your diet, but keep track of how much you are eating.
  • Lean meats such as chicken and turkey breasts
  • Eggs or egg white
  • Whole grains and beans

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Foods to avoid

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Fast foods
  • Baked foods
  • Fried foods
  • Sugary drinks such as soda, sugary juice, and sweetened beverages
  • Starchy foods such as white potatoes and white rice
  • Candy

While these foods to eat with gestational diabetes helps you get better, it does not stop the need for you to see your doctor.

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