Gestational Diabetes Diet & Health
Gestational diabetes is a condition in which women without previously diagnosed diabetes exhibit high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, especially during their third trimester. Diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are increased because the body does not produce enough insulin of its own or is resistant to what is present. The hormones produced in pregnancy cause the body to be more insulin resistant. Some women, due to the stress of the pregnancy on their bodies, are unable to produce the extra that is required and so their blood sugar levels increase resulting in gestational diabetes. More often than not gestational diabetes disappears after the birth of the baby but it wasn’t to be for me.
The photos are of my daughter Stephanie with my first grandchild Amelia Rose eager to make her presence.
When I was pregnant with Kirsty in 1994 I developed gestational diabetes. I remember clearly that I had been to see a movie at a local cinema with a friend and we had shared a bag of chocolates. The next day I had a routine antenatal check up. My doctor told me I needed to have further tests based on the result of a urine dip stick test in her office. I was scared. I went along a day or two later to a maternity hospital for a GTT (Glucose Tolerance Test). This entailed having my blood sugar tested upon arrival having been fasting since the night before, the drinking of a bottle of a glucose drink and an hour or two after that, the testing of my blood sugar again. It was screechingly high. Poor me, I thought it was because of the choccies I had consumed, but this turned out to be the beginning of a journey which has definitely shaped my life.
Everything moved very quickly from the urine test in my doctor’s surgery. I was invited to attend the diabetes clinic at the hospital and was quickly put on insulin. The team who I met with once per week taught me patiently how to test my blood sugar, what was the acceptable range, how to inject, what foods would cause blood sugar spikes (high glycemic) what to do in the event of a hypo (low blood sugar) and how to keep a very detailed diary.
The type of treatment depends upon the person. Not everyone needs insulin. Some can control the condition with diet and exercise, others with the addition of tablets. Either way, with gestational diabetes it does mean a controlled diet.
The diary I kept during my pregnancy and then for some years after, recorded my blood sugar readings, the timing and amount of my insulin injections, detailed descriptions of what I ate and drank and anything else I thought might be relevant and would give the diabetes team a fuller picture.
It was not easy. Remember I had 2 little 5 year old girls who also needed my attention. Stephanie above was one of them…
I learned so very much in a very short space of time because I had to. It turns out that the baby in gestational diabetes reads even very small increases in blood sugar. Poorly controlled gestational diabetes can result in a raft of problems for both you and your baby, so it is critical to receive the care and support to achieve that.
When we wake up in the morning our bodies automatically release a surge of blood sugar to enable us to get up and move. This means in the diabetic state you might have a high reading because your body would not balance this surge with a bit of insulin to tame it. So, when I was pregnant, I used to have to inject rather a lot of insulin first thing, have a very small breakfast of 1 piece of dry toast and then and hour or two later a bowl of porridge or whatever I was having to then cope with what I had injected.
This is a good time to say that 22 years ago the insulins available were not as good as they are today. I was injecting a pre-mixed insulin which meant it had some fast acting and some slow acting insulin delivered together. The fast acting dealt with the immediate meal, but the slow acting floating in my body for 12 hours or so meant I had to eat and plan to keep up with it.
What is usually necessary is a baseline slow insulin which copes with the body’s basic functions and ticks along quietly. Then we need a fast acting insulin which is directly related to the current meal. The more modern approach is to inject multiple times a day to more closely mimic the non diabetic body which releases insulin in direct response to immediate needs.
Whatever route you need to follow in terms of controlling gestational diabetes, your diet is of paramount importance. I don’t believe in a “diabetic” diet. I believe everyone should eat high fibre, little or no processed sugar, good quality fat and a balance of the food groups with an emphasis on fresh, whole and unprocessed. Even if you are eating really well, you need to learn how to balance when and what you eat. No good saying “all I had was a lovely bowl of fresh, organic fruit,” when this, although good for loads of things health related, would cause a spike in blood sugar and not be so good for baby. So the mantra for eating with gestational diabetes could be: high quality food which is balanced. Balanced meaning the timing and quantity.
Happily most women return to the non diabetic state once they have given birth. Also, with proper care during pregnancy and essentially, keeping blood sugars within the normal range, the baby develops normally and has no greater chance of developing diabetes than the general population later in life.
Here are a few healthy Spring fresh, Sun Temple recipes that I found gave me a great deal of energy through my pregnancy:
Bean and Quinoa salad complimented with spinach, topped with a lemon & garlic yogurt dressing.
Healthy Mango Chicken with Tamarind
I hope you enjoy these and please do let us know what you’re finding assists you during your pregnancy with GD.