When a pregnant woman finds out she has diabetes, it can be stressful. She may begin to worry about her baby and become unsure on what she should do to help control the disorder. Understanding the role diet has in the treatment and care of gestational diabetes can help expectant diabetic women take charge of their own health.
When a woman becomes diabetic during her pregnancy, it is known as gestational diabetes. This occurs when her body stops making insulin or when her body does not use her insulin in the proper way. As of 2010, approximately 5 percent of pregnant women ultimately develop gestational diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website. It is diagnosed through a blood test, typically, when the expectant mother is between week 24 and week 28 of her pregnancy.
The significance of developing gestational diabetes is that having the disorder, if not properly treated, can cause problems for the development of the fetus. According to the NIH, risks include having a C-section because the baby becomes too large to deliver vaginally. In addition, the baby can be born with hypoglycemia-low blood sugar. Another issue with untreated gestational diabetes is jaundice in the newborn and respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), a condition that causes breathing difficulties in the newborn. Sometimes, a baby born to a diabetic mother will develop inadequate mineral levels, which can be painful.
Several steps can be taken to control gestational diabetes. One important first step is to adopt a healthy diet plan. The goal is to control blood sugar. Doctors recommend that pregnant diabetic women test their blood sugar levels several times a day so they can adjust their diet and control blood sugar.
A diet that controls the carbohydrate intake is the best choice, according to the NIH. Eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and other complex carbohydrates will help women control their gestational diabetes. Eating several small meals a day, instead of three large ones, is another step diabetic pregnant women can take to reduce their blood sugar spikes. Incorporating light exercise will help metabolism levels and will help the expectant mother maintain a healthy weight, which is also important to controlling blood sugar levels.
A diabetic pregnant woman should work with a nutritionist to develop a meal plan specifically targeted to her needs, according to the LiveStrong website. Fresh vegetables and fruit provide needed nutrients and minerals for the expectant mother and her fetus. LiveStrong recommends eating cherries, apples, mustard greens, broccoli and tomatoes, among other foods.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) makes specific recommends about choosing whole grain dishes. You should look at the list of ingredients and choose foods that list the whole grain as the first ingredient, as it means the food contains more of that than anything else. Whole grain suggestions by the ADA include bulgur, brown rice, whole wheat flour, oats, popcorn and whole rye.
Taking care to maintain healthy blood sugar levels throughout pregnancy can help expectant mothers and their babies avoid problems both with baby development and delivery.
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