Medical Nutrition Therapy for Gestational Diabetes
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational Diabetes is a form of diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy. This form cannot be categorized as Type I OR II because it is NEITHER! Although --- the symptoms are more closely related to type II's insulin resistance.
Why is it a somewhat common Diagnosis during pregnancy?
This is because, during pregnancy, hormones are running at an ALL time high! Your pancreas is HIGHLY involved-- and your pancreas is also in charge of insulin!
With all of these hormones, your pancreas has to produce TWO to THREE TIMES MORE INSULIN than normal.
Most women can achieve this---but some may have a genetic predisposition to diabetes and MAY have some minor issues with insulin resistance throughout their pregnancy...
Aside from high and low blood sugar levels causing fatigue and other symptoms---there are also risks for more pressing symptoms. Although 90% of women's blood sugar problems resolve postpartum, if blood sugars are not controlled during pregnancy ---there is a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes after birth.
It should be notes that if blood sugar levels are not controlled during pregnancy, your baby has a higher risk of a higher birth weight, hyperbilirubinemia (which contributes to infant Jaundice), fetal hyper/hypoglycemia (troubles with regulating blood sugar), as well as miscarriage and stillbirth.
This is obviously very scary---BUT we do have good news! Most pregnant women that work with a dietitian are able to manage their blood sugar levels through diet and exercise to help complete and safe and healthy pregnancy.
If you chose to work with a dietitian (specifically from Mamas Maternal Health), your treatment will focus on nutrition therapy, physical exercise, and medications if needed.
How can Mamas Maternal Health help YOU?
We will focus on a number of things when it comes to your diet and the timing of your meals. No, we will not give you a strict meal plan to follow--- but WE WILL work with you to consume a 'consistent carbohydrate' diet that will help keep your blood sugar levels in check!
What this will look like:
Making sure you are getting an adequate amount of calories, not only for your weight gain but for your baby's growth!
We will also work to normalize your blood sugar levels and keep them stable throughout the day. We are not just looking to control high blood sugars BUT prevent low blood sugar levels as well. Why? Because they can be JUST as harmful. If levels are too low, you may fall into diabetic ketosis--a state where your body transitions to ketones as fuel as opposed to carbohydrates---which can be very dangerous for your baby.
How about an example ?
We want to make sure your carbohydrate intake is evenly distributed throughout 3 meals and 2-3 snacks daily.
We will focus on increasing complex carbohydrates and fiber which will help to decrease spikes in blood sugar levels.
We will also make sure you are eating a well balanced 'bedtime snack' to prevent dangerously low blood sugar levels while you are sleeping.
Overall, we want to make sure you are receiving adequate nutrition through both your macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) as well as your micronutrients (vitamins, and minerals). While a prenatal vitamin is helpful, you cannot depend on it solely. We do not want you to be at risk for vitamin deficiencies.
If you are placed on a medication called metformin (common diabetic medication), you may be at risk for a B12/folate deficiency --which could cause major health problems for your growing baby.
We will also focus on vitamin D, folate, B12, iron, etc. as they are CRITICAL micronutrients during pregnancy .
Blood sugar levels may take some time to normalize postpartum and they should continue to be monitored.
Good news though! In general, breastfeeding has been found to help regulate blood sugar levels. It actually increases insulin sensitivity, which is the opposite of the insulin resistance that you experience with gestational diabetes.
If you are looking for credible support and guidance during your pregnancy/birth/postpartum/breastfeeding jounrey--whether you have gestational diabetes or not--- Mamas Maternal Health would love to be your guide.
We are redefining the role of dietitians in healthcare during pregnancy and want to make sure you get the care that you not only deserve but NEED during this important time. Click here to join us today and become part of the Mamas squad!
Until next time!
Mikayla and Cassie
Mamas Maternal Health Registered Dietitians/Lactation Counselors
Guidelines for Medical Nutrition Therapy in Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: Systematic Review and Critical Appraisal
Photo by Cason Asher on Unsplash
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