How to Handle... Gestational Diabetes
Three takes on how to have a healthy and happy pregnancy when diagnosed with GDM
You’re two-thirds of the way through your pregnancy when WHAM, your doctor calls to tell you that you failed the sugar test. Twice. You have gestational diabetes. Now it’s just pickles, hold the ice cream. But don’t panic; GDM (gestational diabetes mellitus) is not the end of the world. With a little retooling and some education, you and your baby will bump along just fine right up to show time. We asked a spokesperson from the American Diabetes Association, a midwife (who trained at The Farm, Ina May Gaskin’s midwifery center), and a mom who turned her own experience with GDM into a website full of mouth-watering recipes for their tips on how to (healthily and happily) handle gestational diabetes.
Carol Homko, PhD, RN, CDE, associate professor in the department of medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, and American Diabetes Association spokesperson
“One of the most important things you can do when diagnosed with gestational diabetes is to meet with a diabetes educator and a registered dietitian to learn how to properly monitor and control your blood sugar for the rest of your pregnancy. Having these skills in place will directly impact your own—and your baby’s—health, and will minimize any chance of your baby becoming too large, developing breathing difficulties or experiencing any other negative health problems associated with GDM (gestational diabetes mellitus). Getting the proper education and counseling will also help you to feel supported and confident as you manage your GDM; depending on your obstetrician’s comfort and familiarity with the condition, you may also be referred to a high-risk obstetrics practice, as well.
One thing many women forget to do in the first busy months after their babies have been born is to get re-tested to ensure that the diabetes has resolved. You have about a 50 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes at some later point in life—and a 60 to 90 percent chance of developing gestational diabetes again in a subsequent pregnancy—once you’ve had GDM. It’s crucial to get tested a month or two after your baby’s been born, and then re-tested every three years. Maintaining the dietary habits you learn while managing gestational diabetes even after your baby has arrived, too, will help you to manage your weight between pregnancies and to reduce your risk for developing either GDM or type 2 diabetes in the future.”
Brielle Epstein, Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), MoonstoneBirth
“Cut out sugar and refined carbs like white flour. Start reading labels and notice all the added sugar in yogurt, cereal, and all processed foods. Start eating a protein/complex carb snack every 2-3 hours. Start moving your body! Exercise doesn’t mean you have to get to the gym. Go for a walk or if you have an uncooperative toddler (or an uncooperative inner voice). Have a dance party after every meal; just 5-10 minutes of dancing can significantly bring down blood glucose levels.
Most of the time, occasional treats are fine. It’s important to skip the soda and candy, but a square of dark chocolate after dinner or even a small bowl of ice cream after a healthy meal is usually OK. (If you’ve been diagnosed with GDM you need to check your blood sugar to be sure.) Keep a diet journal and test your blood sugar daily. Notice which foods or behaviors cause blood sugar spikes and make changes accordingly. If even your fasting numbers are high—which can be caused by a number of factors—keep some nuts by the bed and eat a handful every time you get up to pee in the night.”
Lisa Taylor, founder of GestationalDiabetesRecipes.com
“Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GDM) can feel like the end of the world. But once the shock is over, try to see the positive side; GDM is the ultimate crash course in nutrition, and this will serve you well once your baby arrives. Although managing GDM requires a steep learning curve, you benefit by learning what a balanced diet looks like, and understanding how the food you eat impacts your mood, energy and long-term health. As a busy pregnant woman, it can feel like life is already too hectic without adding another stress to the list. But flip that, and GDM becomes a great excuse to turn the focus on to you for a while. Yes, your diet may need to change dramatically (or not), but a diet moderate in carbohydrates and fat is something the whole family can benefit from. I encourage you to feel empowered by your new knowledge, and to feed yourself delicious, nurturing foods throughout your pregnancy and the rest of your life!”
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