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Managing Gestational Diabetes

What is Gestational Diabetes (GD)?

It is a type of diabetes that occurs in pregnancy. It usually occurs during the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Between 3-20% of people in Canada will develop it during pregnancy. The bad news; it needs to be treated. The good news; it usually goes away after birth!

How does it happen? It is simply due to your baby growing, increased hormones and other factors that are being utilized by baby. Because of this, your body isn’t able to produce enough insulin to keep your blood sugar under control. Sometimes, GD happens because you had issues with your blood sugar before pregnancy, but just didn't know it! Other times, it happens simply because baby has a lot of needs, and your body is just doing the best it can to accommodate!

How will I know if I have it? Typically, you will be screened for GD at 24-28 weeks. First, you will undergo the Glucose Challenge Screening (GCS), which is a blood test. You will be asked to drink glucose (a very sugary drink), and then have your blood drawn 1 hour later. If the results for this test are positive, you will be sent for a second test: the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). The important thing to remember here, is that just because you screen positive on the GCS, does not mean you have gestational diabetes! It just means we need to do a better test (GTT) to identify it. Can it be prevented? YES! Sometimes gestational diabetes just happens and we don’t always know why. However, you can drastically reduce your risk of gestational diabetes by managing your weight, eating a healthy diet, and being active before and during pregnancy. How do I treat it? The good news is that treatment can be done using natural interventions! This includes eating a healthy diet by incorporating enough protein, fruits and vegetables, as well as pairing foods together that reduce glucose spikes. It also includes being active, doing cardiovascular activity as well as increasing muscle mass through strength training (yes, body weight activities count, too!). Some people may need diabetic medication or insulin injections if blood sugar spikes become too hard to control. What if I don’t treat it? Not treating gestational diabetes can lead to preeclampsia, issues stemming from high blood sugar in baby, increased size of baby (which increases the risk of needing a C Section), and other issues when it comes time for delivery of baby. Leaving gestational diabetes untreated during pregnancy leads to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes for both you and baby later in life. How do I eat if I have GD or want to prevent GD? Aim to eat vegetables at every meal or snack (aim for at least 5 servings a day). This can include raw and/or cooked veggies. Pair your fruits and vegetables with a healthy fat and/or protein. For example, apples with nuts and seeds or nut/seed butter. Veggies with hummus. Chicken with roasted broccoli. Fruit smoothie with protein powder. Try to limit sweets! If you have really strong cravings for junk food, aim to have it immediately following a large healthy meal. For example, if you need to have ice cream or cake or cookies, try to have it immediately following dinner as this can help reduce the glucose spike!

This feels too overwhelming… If you’re looking for support preparing for pregnancy, including preventing GD or managing GD, you can book an appointment with our Naturopathic Graduate and Doula, Adrienne! She can help you understand your options and empower you to make decisions that are best for you when it comes to preventing and managing GD.

Adrienne DeLuca, B.H.K. Graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine Doula


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