Why Should I Care if I Have Gestational Diabetes?

Why Should I Care if I Have Gestational Diabetes?

Since gestational diabetes only occurs to pregnant women, most women have no idea what this means. Although many are familiar with what diabetes is in general, they do not know what to expect when it comes to gestational diabetes. Questions plague the mind of a woman who is newly-diagnosed with gestational diabetes: Is it the same as the common type 2 diabetes? What are its effects on me and my baby? Should I be alarmed? Should I even care? The answer to the last question is very simple: Yes, you should care. Just like any other types of diseases, you should take some precautionary measures if you are diagnosed with this condition. In order to help you understand the gravity to the situation, here are some information on what gestational diabetes is.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition that manifests only during pregnancy. Just like the more commonly known diabetes type 2, gestational diabetes involves an increase in blood glucose or sugar levels. This is because the body cannot produce adequate amounts of insulin to match the glucose intake of the pregnant woman, since a pregnant woman’s insulin needs is multiplied to two or three times the normal insulin requirement. Moreover, a pregnant woman releases certain hormones that antagonize the action of insulin. Hence, control of blood sugar is important for women with gestational diabetes.

What are the effects of gestational diabetes?

So what if you have gestational diabetes? Remember that since you are carrying a child in your womb, this means that the effects of gestational diabetes might not only manifest on you, but also on your child. Glucose can cross the placental barrier since this is the main source of nutrients for your growing fetus. The child of a mother with gestational diabetes tends to be larger in size because of the amount of glucose that they get. This can pose some problems during delivery. If the baby is already too large before it becomes term, this might prompt the doctor to deliver the baby prematurely. If the baby reaches full term, s/he may be delivered via Caesarean section because s/he cannot fit inside the birth canal. Normal spontaneous delivery might injure the baby. Moreover, your baby can have periods of hypoglycemia during his/her first few days since his/her pancreas have gotten used to producing large amounts of insulin while still in the womb.

You can become affected as well. Those who have gestational diabetes have higher risks of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy because of the thick consistency of the blood. Hypertension during pregnancy, also known as preeclampsia, is a life-threatening condition for both the mother and the baby.

Based on the aforementioned effects, pregnant women should definitely care about their condition. Controlling blood sugar levels is of utmost importance to prevent any unwanted incidents. That being said, proper diet that is low in sugar and enough exercise should be practiced by women with gestational diabetes during pregnancy. If you want to learn more about the dietary recommendations for gestational diabetes and other related information, sign up for our newsletter.

What is the Difference Between Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes?

What is the Difference Between Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes?

Diabetes is a very common condition among the older population. Almost all people are familiar with this condition and they know that in order to manage this disease, one has to cut down on his/her sugar consumption. However, did you know that there are actually three types of diabetes? Although all three of them involve high blood sugar in the body, they have distinct differences that call for classification.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

Those who congenitally have diabetes are classified under type 1 diabetes. This is often dubbed as juvenile diabetes because it is most common among children. However, it can still be diagnosed among adults. This type of diabetes is an autoimmune condition that permanently destroys the beta cells in the pancreas, which are responsible for producing insulin. Hence, the body can no longer produce any insulin.

Symptoms for type 1 diabetes is the same as that of type 2—there is thirst, fatigue, and frequent urination. However, people with type 1 diabetes mellitus are usually thin as they tend to lose weight since glucose is not properly absorbed by the body.

Treatment for type 1 diabetes involves insulin therapy. People should also make permanent lifestyle changes, such as having a healthy diet and becoming physically active. If not controlled or treated, this condition can lead to several complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, retinopathy, and stroke.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

The most common and well-known type of diabetes is type 2 diabetes mellitus. It affects millions of people all over the world. Unlike type 1 diabetes, this type of diabetes is caused by lifestyle factors, such as being obese, having high blood pressure, and having high cholesterol. The beta cells of the pancreas still produce insulin, but this insulin is no longer effectively used by the body, thus resulting to insulin resistance and hyperglycemia. It is only during the advanced stages of type 2 diabetes mellitus that the beta cells can become damaged, hence resulting to insulin deficiency.

Treatment starts with diet modification and physical activity in order to lose weight. Oral hypoglycemic agents will be prescribed, and, depending on the severity of the illness, you may be asked to regularly monitor your blood sugar levels at home. If the oral medications are no longer working, you might also need to subject yourself to insulin therapy.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes, as its name suggests, happens only to pregnant women and is diagnosed during the second or third trimester. This is caused by the hormonal changes happening in your body. The hormones that are made by the placenta resist insulin, thus letting glucose stay in your bloodstream. This then causes high blood sugar. Moreover, your insulin needs as a pregnant woman increases by two or three times than the normal insulin needs because of the growing fetus inside your womb. All these factors pile up, giving you a condition known as gestational diabetes.

Women with gestational diabetes should control their blood glucose levels, as high blood sugar can have detrimental effects on both the mother and the baby. It is important to monitor your blood glucose levels regularly and to practice eating healthy and engaging in physical activities.

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How is Gestational Diabetes Treated?

How is Gestational Diabetes Treated?

Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes is not the end of the world. Although the word “diabetes” might seem imposing to you since it is a chronic condition, remember that you can still do something about your condition because it only happens during pregnancy. Besides, it is of paramount importance that you do something about gestational diabetes so that it will not adversely affect your baby. To be able to cope with gestational diabetes in a healthy way, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Keep your blood glucose levels in check. Your aim is to keep your blood glucose levels within normal range, just like those pregnant women without gestational diabetes. It is important that you know the normal values so that you can easily monitor your blood sugar levels. Your blood glucose level should be 95 mg/dl before meals. One hour after eating, it should be less than 140 mg/dl. It should go back to the normal range of 120 mg/dl or less two hours after eating. In order to monitor this, you would need a blood glucose monitor at home. This should be used at least once a day, or more frequently as needed.
  • Lose weight before you get pregnant. Just like type 2 diabetes, women who are most at risk for developing gestational diabetes are those who love to eat and are overweight. Therefore, those who are more than 20% their ideal body weight should start thinking about going on a diet. This does not only mean that you have to decrease the amount of food that you take. You should also consider making healthier choices, such as eating a vegetable salad instead of a whole chocolate bar. You should also limit your fat intake, as this would also benefit your baby. In addition, exercising is an important component of losing weight. Even though you are pregnant, you can still exercise as long as you first consult your doctor regarding the exercises that are safe for your condition.
  • Monitor your baby. Even if you do not have gestational diabetes, you have to go on pre-natal checkups at least once every trimester. For women with gestational diabetes, this should be done more frequently. Your doctor will monitor your baby’s movements through kick counts to know whether your baby is moving less than usual. Fetal ultrasounds will also be done to see how big your baby is growing, and whether or not your gestational diabetes already affects the growth of the baby. Your baby might also be subjected to a non-stress test to see how your baby’s heart responds to movement.
  • Take your prescribed medications. You have to make sure that you control your blood sugar levels. However, if your blood sugar remains uncontrolled, you should ask your doctor about taking insulin shots. The good thing about these is that insulin cannot cross the placental barrier, so your baby will not be affected by this medication. But before taking insulin shots, your doctor might first give you oral hypoglycemic agents to lower down your blood sugar levels. Avoid self-medicating and always ask your doctor about the safety of your child when taking any type of medication during pregnancy.

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What Are Great Gestational Diabetes Snacks To Carry With You When You Have Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational Diabetes Snacks

When you have gestational diabetes, you might find it hard to decide on what kinds of snacks you need to eat. Some women might even avoid eating snacks altogether, making them very hungry during mealtimes. The truth is that women with gestational diabetes need to eat snacks in between meals. These gestational diabetes snacks keep you from getting hungry until your next meal, thus helping you not eat too much at mealtimes. This, in turn, will help keep your blood sugar levels in check. Moreover, it prevents the risk of having hypoglycemia in between meals.

Women with gestational diabetes are advised to have two to four snacks per day. Your gestational diabetes snacks choices will largely depend on how much you exercise and also the hypoglycemic agents you are taking. In general, however, here are some examples of snacks that have low glucose content and can be eaten by women with gestational diabetes:

  • Plain yogurt with natural sweetener – A cup of plain yogurt combined with an herbal sweetener like Stevia is a good dessert for women with GDM. You only get carbohydrates from yogurt, but since you use a natural sweetener, you don’t get extra calories or glucose.
  • Sugar-free gum – The chewing action that you make while chewing the gum in your mouth can give you a satiated feeling while you are waiting for your meals. Also, since this is sugar-free, you don’t get calories from it. You can also try munching on some sugar-free candies.
  • Unsalted almonds – 23 pieces of naturally unsalted almonds is only equal to five grams of carbohydrates, so you can enjoy quite a lot of these healthy and crunchy almonds without fearing a sudden spike in your blood sugar levels.
  • Fruit-flavored bottled water – You can find different variants of these fruit-flavored bottled waters in the supermarket. Whether carbonated or not, they taste like your favorite fruity drinks, only with no caffeine and no carbs. However, what you need to remember is that most of these fruit-flavored bottled waters contain Splenda, so always drink these in moderation.
  • gestational diabetes snacksLow-carbohydrate vegetables – You can munch on vegetables with low carbohydrate content like asparagus, artichoke, celery, and cucumbers. Although these veggies won’t really sate your sugar cravings, they act like the chewing gums that occupy your mouth while waiting for your meals.
  • Sweet pickles – You can get individual-sized servings from Mt. Olive. They give you a tangy flavor while still remaining sugar-free. Moreover, the strong flavor provides a feeling of satiety, thus quelling the appetite easily.

In choosing gestational diabetes snacks, you have to remember to always eat healthy, meaning indulge in foods that have low caloric and sugar content but contain nutrients and vitamins that you and your baby needs. You should also limit the carbohydrates you consume per snack to 1 to 2 carbohydrate choices. As for midnight snacks, you might also need to eat some, but make sure you talk to your health care provider first.

For more information on gestational diabetes and the dietary choices you have, you can sign up to our newsletter.  If you are in search of a complete gestational diabetes diet meal plan with recipes you can look at buying my book on Amazon, find the link here. Gestational Diabetes Book!

How Soon After I Have The Baby Should I Be Checked For Diabetes?

One of the worries that most women with gestational diabetes have in their minds is their condition after pregnancy and giving birth. Will they continue to have diabetes, or will their lifestyle be back to the way it was before they got pregnant? The answer is pretty simple: Your gestational diabetes will disappear once you are no longer pregnant. Otherwise, that would already be a case of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Now, the next question that would probably be plaguing your mind is this: How soon do I know this? In order for you to know the state of your blood glucose levels, you need to subject yourself to a postnatal check to determine if everything is okay with you and your baby.

The Postnatal Check

In reality, your pregnancy hormones will drop a few days after giving birth. Remember that these hormones are the ones responsible for the delay of glucose transportation from your bloodstream to your cells, hence causing gestational diabetes. However, you will only know this once you get a postnatal check.

Also known as the six-week check, your postnatal check will be done six to eight weeks after giving birth, or roughly two months after your delivery. You have to make an appointment with your doctor to have you and your baby checked.

If you had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, you may be asked to subject yourself to an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) during your postnatal check. Statistics show that one out of 50 women still have diabetes even after pregnancy, and this might mean that they had diabetes mellitus all along and they just had not realized this. Hence, this test will determine if your blood sugar levels have already returned to normal.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

This is the same test that you are being subjected to during the diagnosis stage of gestational diabetes. Before the test, you need to fast overnight. Check with your health care provider regarding the intake of your maintenance medications.

Once you arrive at the clinic, a blood sample will be taken from you. This sample will be the basis for the baseline test, since this will measure the blood glucose levels during fasting. Afterwards, you will be asked to drink a sweet and sugary mixture, which is equivalent to 75 grams of glucose. You have to drink the whole mixture, after which another blood sample will be collected two hours after drinking the mixture. This next blood sample will be compared to the baseline sample to see how high your sugar levels rose and whether or not it is within the normal range. Take note that you should not eat or drink anything within the two-hour waiting time. You can only eat after the second blood sample has been taken. The result will usually be ready 48 hours after the test.

If you get a positive result from the test, it is likely that you have already developed type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, a negative result means your gestational diabetes had gone away and you can resume your normal routine.

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Gestational Diabetes Bread and Starches-Common Portion Sizes of Carbohydrate Choices Part 1

Gestational Diabetes Bread and Starches

gestational diabetes breadA very important part of gestational diabetes therapy is watching your diet. As in any type of diabetes, the food that you eat should be moderated in order for you avoid sudden spikes of glucose in your blood, as your body’s insulin cannot cope up with the amount of glucose in your body. Carbohydrates are the main sources of glucose, but this does not mean that a woman with gestational diabetes is no longer allowed to eat carbohydrate-rich foods. A gestational diabetic can enjoy any type of food, as long as she controls the portion sizes of every food she eats.

If you are planning your gestational diabetes menu, here are the serving sizes of the most common breads and starches. All of the amounts here are equal to one serving, and each serving contains about 15 grams of carbohydrates.

Gestational Diabetes Bread

Size of One Serving

Whole grain bread 1 ounce slice
Cooked cereal ½ cup
Cooked rice or pasta 1/3 cup
Cooked beans, peas, or lentils ½ cup
Corn ½ cup
Large baked potato ¼ portion
Mashed potato ½ cup
Flour or corn tortilla 1 to 6 inches
Low fat crackers 6 squares
Hamburger or hot dog bun, English muffin, or frozen bagel ½ portion
Popcorn 3 cups
Rice cakes 2 pieces
Graham crackers 3 pieces
Concentrated bran 1/3 cup
Dinner roll 1 small portion
Broth-based soup 1 cup
Pretzels, potato chips, or tortilla chips 3/4 ounces
Sweet potatoes or yams ½ cup
Pancake 1 piece, 4 inches

It would also be very helpful if you consult your dietitian regarding your numbers of servings per day of carbohydrate, since this varies from person to person. However, in general, you can choose one kind of starch and have a maximum of three servings per meal, or you can choose several combinations of starches for a bit of variety.  If you find a gestational diabetes meal plan is helpful, you can read more about planning in our gestational diabetes diet meal plan.

Tips on Including Starches and Bread in Your Diet

  • If possible, choose pasta, cereals, and whole grain bread, since they are made of complex carbohydrates, hence not causing sudden spikes in blood glucose levels.
  • Fried and high-fat starches, such as tortilla chips, potato chips, and biscuits, should be eaten sparingly. Instead, you can opt for baked potatoes, pretzels, and low-fat muffins.
  • Instead of using sour cream on baked potato, try using a low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
  • For your dips and bread fillings, remember to use low-fat or fat-free substitutes, like low-fat mayonnaise or light margarine.
  • Use skim or low-fat milk together with your cereals.
  • If you are buying foods from the market, check out the nutrition facts on the food labels so that you have an idea how much carbohydrate and other nutrients are stored in the food that you eat. (remember, one serving carbohydrate = 15 gm of carbohydrate)
  • Check the serving sizes using measuring cups and spoons. You can also use a food scale if you have one.

Remember that planning your diet is an integral part in coping up with gestational diabetes.

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What Makes a Good Lunch for a Gestational Diabetic Diet?

Eating Lunch At Work?  Try To Make & Take Your Meals-lunch for a gestational diabetic diet

lunch for a gestational diabetic dietWomen with gestational diabetes should make some lifestyle modifications, and that includes modifying their diets. Although you can still eat whatever types of food that you want, the key is to limit the portions that you eat, especially foods that increase your blood sugar levels. In order to watch your diet, it is advisable to plan your meals accordingly. Here are some tips in creating a meal plan and lunch for a gestational diabetic diet that is suited for women with gestational diabetes.

How to Create a Meal Plan-lunch for a gestational diabetic diet

There are a few basic ideas that you need to keep in mind when making a meal plan. The first concept is the importance of carbohydrates in your diet. Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates need to be included in your meals even though they are the main sources of glucose. Besides, it is hard to totally eliminate carbohydrates from your diet since all foods, more or less, contain a combination of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The only thing that you need to remember when it comes to carbohydrates is that you have to regulate your intake of carbohydrate-rich foods. Unlike fats and proteins that take a long time to affect the blood sugar levels, carbohydrates can cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels, so that is why they need to be measured.

Another idea that you need to keep in mind is that you have to promote nutrition through a balanced diet. Healthy food choices are very important, since you are not just thinking about your health but also of your baby’s. Aside from good choices, you also need to consider the timing and portions of your meals, as everything has to be taken in moderation.

Controlling Blood Glucose Levels

Here are some helpful tips in meal planning that can help you control your blood sugar levels:

  1. Eat small, frequent feedings. You need to eat at least every 2 to 3 hours so as to spread the amount of glucose that you take throughout the day.
  2. Include proteins in your diet. Proteins help even out your blood glucose, plus it also gives you energy to last throughout the day.
  3. Eat high-fiber foods. Foods that are high in fiber include cereals, whole-grain breads, beans, and fresh and frozen vegetables. You can also include fruits in your afternoon or evening meals since these are also good sources of fiber.
  4. Avoid sugar and sweets. These can easily raise your blood sugar levels since these are composed of simple sugars. Although it is okay to take them every now and then, do so sparingly. Avoid fruit juices, soft drinks, and desserts.
  5. Limit fats. This is especially needed if you are watching out for weight gain. Choose only foods that are low-fat or fat-free.

Sample Lunch Meal Plan

In order to help you in your meal planning, here is a sample meal plan for lunch that you can also do one of these days:

  • 2 to 3 ounces of turkey (protein)
  • ½ cup of low-fat milk (protein and carbohydrates)
  • 1 small orange (vitamins and fiber)
  • Carrot sticks with lettuce and tomato (fiber and carbohydrates)
  • 2 pieces of wheat bread (starch carbohydrates)
  • 1 tablespoon of light mayonnaise (fat)

If you want to learn more on how to create a meal plan, you can subscribe to our newsletter on gestational diabetes and get 3 days of dinner meals and a great booklet about gestational diabetes.

Healthy Eating Out at Restaurants For Gestational Diabetes Moms

Wondering What You Should Do When Eating Out?

English: McDonald's Restaurant, Bermuda Park A...

Having gestational diabetes is not the end of the world for a pregnant woman. In fact, you can still enjoy much of the foods that you normally eat, but always in moderation. That being said, eating out at restaurants is not a total no-no for you, as it still remains one of your options. In fact, the choices that you have for eating out can still be the same choices that you have at home. As with eating at home, remember that you also need to have a balanced diet once you decide to dine out. Here are some guidelines that you need to remember to still keep healthy while eating out at restaurants:

  • Select the “right” restaurant. Before you go to whatever restaurant to eat out, you can research their menu beforehand so that you know what kinds of food to expect. Choose restaurant that have healthy food options, such as those with low fat and low sugar content. In fact, some restaurant websites contain nutritional and caloric information about their foods, so you can already plan what to eat even before you step into the restaurant. If such information is not available, you can instead opt for a restaurant where you can ask the chef to prepare low fat food for you.
  • Be mindful of the servings. There are some restaurants that offer large meal portions, so you need to control how much you eat by opting for smaller servings. You can also share with your partner if there are jumbo servings. Avoid supersizing your meals since this can lead to an exacerbation of gestational diabetes symptoms.
  • Avoid the freebies. Oftentimes, restaurants serve free bread, crackers, or chips while you are waiting for your meal. You can already skip these appetizers, especially since they are usually full of calories that will further increase your blood sugar levels. If you really want to have an appetizer, a safe choice would be a vegetable salad.
  • Use gravy and dressings sparingly. Both salad dressings and meat gravy are very high in fats, so you should not pour these over your meals like there’s no tomorrow. Instead, ask the waiter to serve it on the side so that you can control how much gravy or dressing you put into your food. If there is any low-fat dressing, that would be a good choice.
  • Substitute unhealthy foods with healthy ones. You can request from the chef or the waiter that instead of giving you fries as sides, they can just serve you garden salad instead. You can also substitute hash browns with fresh fruits.
  • Take note of what you drink. Your blood sugar levels might rise with sodas, fruit juices, shakes, tea, and coffee. While it is best to just drink plenty of water, you can still indulge in other drinks, provided that you only consume a little amount of those drinks.
  • Avoid fried foods. Remember that an average fast food restaurant serves food that have a lot of calories, fats, and salt, since the way that they cooked their food was almost always deep fried. Instead of eating fried foods, opt for baked or grilled foods instead.

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What Are The Blood Sugar Levels For Gestational Diabetes?

Recommended Blood Sugar Levels For Gestational Diabetes

It goes without saying that women who have gestational diabetes (GDM) should control their blood sugar levels. Just like other types of diabetes, the main problem in GDM is that the spiking blood glucose levels might cause problems for the pregnant mom. In order to keep the sugar under control, there are certain measures that every mom-to-be should know, especially the ones who are suffering from GDM. One of these measures is knowing how to take glucose levels in the blood, and this can be accomplished in a number of ways.  With gestational diabetes, you may have to do a blood sugar test up to 4 times per day.

blood sugar levels for gestational diabetes

Taking Blood Sugar Levels For Gestational Diabetes

There are several ways to determine the blood sugar levels of an individual. One of the most common is fasting blood sugar, more popularly known as FBS. This test is used to diagnose a person with in the diabetes or even pre-diabetes stage.  Eight hours of fasting is needed prior to this test to yield accurate results.

Another way of measuring glucose is through RBS or random blood sugar testing. As the name implies, this test is taken regardless of the last time you ate. This may be taken several times throughout the day, and is very useful for comparing values. Usually, healthy people do not have wide variations when it comes to blood sugar levels throughout the day, so those with noticeable fluctuations might be indicative of a problem. However, this is not a specific test for diagnosing diabetes.

The most common way of diagnosing GDM is through the oral glucose tolerance test or OGTT. In here, the woman is asked to drink a glass of a glucose-containing liquid. Afterwards, her blood sample will be taken to determine whether she has GDM or not. Once the woman is diagnosed with GDM, she might be asked to monitor her glucose levels throughout pregnancy through a glucometer and glucose strip, which should be taken at least two hours after meals.

Recommended Glucose Levels

In every glucose test, there is a corresponding glucose level that is deemed to be normal. Anything over that can strengthen the proof or even diagnose a pregnant woman with GDM. For example, in FBS, a glucose level of more than or equal to 95 mg/dl is already considered to be diabetic. This level can already be detrimental to the health of both the mother and the baby. If the glucose levels are tested one hour post-prandial or after eating, a value of more than or equal to 130 mg/dl is indicative of a glucose absorption problem. Two hours after eating, a pregnant woman should have less than 120 mg/dl in order to be considered healthy.

However, it is important to remember that a very low glucose level of less than 60 mg/dl is indicative of hypoglycemia, and can cause hunger, dizziness, confusion, and weakness.

Keeping a Food Log

If you are diagnosed with GDM, it is essential to keep a food log so that you know which foods increase your blood sugar levels, and which ones only do so minimally. Aside from that, you should also take note of your portion size, especially for foods high in sugar and carbohydrates.

Even getting a great book on meal planning will help.  Be sure to consult your nutritionist regarding a diet plan to keep your glucose levels in check.

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Regular Exercise Can Help With Gestational Diabetes

In a post by News Medical, about Gestational Diabetes and Exercise, they talked about :

Regular moderate-intensity exercise during the second half of pregnancy can improve fetal and maternal outcomes for women who develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), show study findings, although the team notes that regular exercise did not significantly reduce the risk for developing GDM per se.

As reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Jonatan Ruiz (University of Granada, Spain) and colleagues assessed the benefits of an intervention promoting moderate exercise three times a week (50-55 min per session) from weeks 10-12 to weeks 38-39 of pregnancy versus usual care for 510 women who were initially healthy and diabetes free.

I usually encourage women to exercise, even just a little, especially after a meal.  It seems to help lower the blood sugar levels and improve the health outcomes, and now there is proof!  Now, regular exercise did not reduce the women’s chances of developing gestational diabetes, but it helped their blood sugar levels.  So, walking about an hour for 3 days a week – which is almost the same as the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week we give to non-pregnant persons, makes a difference.

Keep walking and keep working on your meal plan, using a good meal guide!
Exercise can help with gestational diabetes!