De-mystifying Gestational Diabetes And What You Can Do About It

So you are pregnant! 

Congratulations!

pregnant belly

But what if you have been told that you at a higher risk for developing Gestational Diabetes (GDM)? This may happen if diabetes runs in your family, you have had this condition in the past or even because your blood sugar levels are beginning to climb and your midwife and/or obstetrician are concerned. 

Other risk factors for developing this GDM include being overweight or obese or having polycystic ovarian syndrome. Some ethnic groups are also at a higher risk, such as indigenous Australians and Afro-Americans.

But what is it and why are you at risk? 

The hormones of pregnancy are designed to keep glucose in the mother's system for just a little bit longer, so it can nourish the unborn baby via the placenta. This is fine unless you have a degree of insulin resistance. This means that your body doesn't respond to insulin like it normally should and ignores its message to put the glucose into the cells. This means glucose ends up floating around your bloodstream in ever increasing levels. 

So the addition of the pregnancy hormones creates the perfect storm for developing GDM. Your blood sugar levels then can become abnormally high, your baby may grow a bit too large, which increases the possibility of having some sort of birth intervention such as caesarian section or induction of labour.

What can be done?

It's all about being prepared: If your health care provider has suggested that you may be at risk, making a few lifestyle choices may be all that it takes to help you avoid GDM, even if you have had the condition with previous pregnancies!

Even if you already have GDM, these tips may help you manage your sugars enough to prevent the need for insulin injections later. 

Here are a few tips:

It's all about the diet!

  1. Eat the rainbow ( and I am not talking Skittles!) - getting colour from a wide variety of fruits and veggies will give your body valuable flavanoids, anthocyanins and antioxidants - all are known to help stabilise blood sugar levels. Eating at least 3 different coloured veggies with every meal is a great way to start.
  2. Eat good quality protein at EVERY meal - this is a sure fire way to help stabilise blood sugar: A palm-sized portion of protein at every meal is generally all that it takes. Choose fresh and natural sources such as eggs, chicken, beef, fish and lamb. There is no rule to say that you can't have dinner leftovers for breakfast! In fact it is an excellent way to stabilise those sugars. Avoid large fish such as tuna and salmon as these are often high in heavy metals such as mercury. 
  3. Magnesium is a mineral that helps stabilise blood sugar.  Foods rich in this mineral include green leafy veggies ( also high in valuable  folate), nuts and seeds ( especially pumpkin seeds), lentils and brown rice, avocados, bananas, yoghurt and dark chocolate (!!). But you probably need more magnesium   than you can get from food. Talk to your practitioner such as your naturopath or nutritionist who can prescribe the right magnesium for you - remember you get what you pay for, so the cheap supermarket varieties will do very little to help stabilise your sugars. 
  4. Eating extra fibre and getting a  good quality probity can also help - brand new research has linked poor quality micro-organisms in your gut with developing not only obesity, but also diabetes 

Get regular checkups - see your health provider regular ( especially after 24 weeks) so that they can closer monitor your blood and urinary sugar levels. 

Good luck and wishing you a healthy and happy pregnancy.