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Pregnancy Diabetes: 5 Things You Need to Know about Managing Gestational Diabetes

According to a recent scientific publication, 4 million women are affected by gestational diabetes mellitus at any given time point in India

Dr Arbinder Singal | Aug 30, 2021

Gestational Diabetes (GDM), also known as pregnancy diabetes, is fast becoming a common condition during pregnancy. In this condition, blood sugar levels remain high due to hormonal and physiological changes during pregnancy.

According to a recent scientific publication, 4 million women are affected by gestational diabetes mellitus at any given time point in our country. Gestational diabetes is often diagnosed between the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy, where blood sugar remains higher than normal levels (>180 mg/dL). However, there are ways to control blood sugar levels naturally at home and have a smooth sailing during pregnancy.

Expecting mothers with gestational diabetes should understand what triggers the condition. Not taking adequate measures implies health risks for the baby like a bigger head size, breathing problems, low blood sugar and mineral levels and jaundice. Meanwhile, for the mother, it can lead to increased chances of C-section, chances of preterm labour, miscarriage or stillbirth and chances of getting Type II diabetes in the later stages of life. Proper management of the condition can help avert such consequences. Simple lifestyle changes and diet modifications can go a long way in keeping blood sugar levels in control.

Here are a few things that you can do to keep diabetes during pregnancy in check:

1. Follow a proper diet plan: Diet is of prime importance in gestational diabetes management. Make sure you follow a healthy eating plan, keep your caloric intake in check and watch the intake of carbohydrates. Eight simple rules to follow:

a) Have small meals planned throughout the day. Ideally, have three main meals and three snacks.

b) Choose complex carbs over the simple ones - for example, replace white rice, maida, white bread, cornflakes with brown rice, millets, quinoa, whole wheat, oats, multigrain bread and buckwheat.

c) Carbohydrate load should not exceed more than 45 to 50 grams in one meal (main meal) - you can use the Fitterfly Wellness App for tracking your carbohydrates.

d) Choose foods with a low GI index; they help keep postprandial (post meal) blood sugars in check and are rich in fibre and nitrates, both help in better blood sugar control.

e) Include at least two servings of protein each day like lean meat, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products, beans and legumes.

f) Include calcium, prenatal vitamins and supplements prescribed by your doctor.

g) Avoid food with added sugar, processed or high in fat.

h) Shun artificial sweeteners and stay hydrated.

2. Keep your weight in check: There are certain risk factors for gestational diabetes and overweight or obesity is one of them. During pregnancy, weight gain is inevitable. But if you gain too much weight, it can increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes. How much weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on your pre-pregnancy weight and BMI.

3. Exercise regularly: In gestational diabetes, an expectant mother can become resistant to insulin due to hormonal changes. While insulin helps distribute glucose to every body cell in our body, its resistance leads to increased glucose levels in the blood. Sometimes the pancreas might not secrete enough insulin during pregnancy and lead to the same condition. Regular exercise and physical activity help to reduce insulin resistance and also prepares the body for labour.

4. Monitor your blood glucose levels regularly: In most cases of gestational diabetes, the sugar levels in the blood are kept under control with a healthy diet plan and exercise; only in rare cases do doctors prescribe medication. However, you will still have to monitor your blood sugar levels pre- and post-meal at least 3 times in a week, ideally almost daily. It is essential to ensure or report any fluctuations in blood sugar level to your doctor or your coach. If you have never used a glucometer before, don’t worry, your doctor or the care team at the hospital will train you to use one.

5. Keep stress at bay: Stress can have a detrimental effect on foetal development and your health, it can also make your blood sugars rise. Take care to bring down your stress levels too with yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to calm your nerves.

6. Enrol into a GDM program: While some of these things you can follow, having a coach and help available to keep you on track during the most beautiful time in your life would be most important. Digital online programs such as Diabefly GDM can help you with scientific diet plans for gestational diabetes, exercise to fight insulin resistance and also help of a clinical psychologist to decrease stress.

The author is a MBBS (Gold Medallist), DNB, M.Ch (AIIMS, Gold Medallist) and Co-founder & CEO, Fitterfly. Fitterfly is a Digital Therapeutics company running a deeply personalized gestation diabetes wellness program called Diabefly GDM. Diabefly GM program is scientifically validated, doctor recommended and has proven outcomes. For more information check- www.fitterfly.com/diabefly-gdm