Gestational diabetes can cause a range of complications during pregnancy. Fortunately, a woman can help reduce complications by following a healthful diet. What foods should women eat and what foods should they avoid if they have gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes occurs if a woman’s body cannot produce enough insulin, during her pregnancy. This deficiency leads to high blood sugar. High blood sugar levels may cause problems for the woman and her baby if not managed properly.
This article explains what type of diet a woman should follow during pregnancy if she has gestational diabetes. It also considers other treatment options for gestational diabetes and what complications may occur if the condition is not properly managed.
Contents of this article:
Understanding gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2 and 10 percent of pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes each year in the United States.
This type of diabetes occurs when a woman’s body cannot make enough of the hormone insulin. Insulin is made by the pancreas and helps the body’s cells to use sugar from the blood as energy.
When a woman is pregnant, her body will produce more hormones, and she may put on weight. Both of these changes may mean that her body’s cells may not use insulin as well as they used to. This is called insulin resistance.
Becoming resistant to insulin means that the body needs more of it in order to use up the sugar in the blood. Sometimes a woman’s body cannot produce enough insulin to keep up. This leads to a sugar buildup in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar levels.
Symptoms of gestational diabetes may include:
being unusually thirsty
frequent bladder infections
sugar in urine, when tested for by a doctor
What to eat
Following a healthful diet is important during pregnancy, and particularly so if a woman develops gestational diabetes.
High blood sugar levels may be harmful to the woman and the growing fetus. To help manage blood sugar levels, it is important to monitor how many, what type, and how often carbohydrates are consumed. Keeping a food diary may make this easier.
Spacing meals and snacks containing carbohydrates evenly throughout the day can help avoid spikes in blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association recommend that women with gestational diabetes should eat three small-to-moderate meals and two to four snacks per day.
Other ways to help regulate blood sugar include:
avoiding eating too many carbohydrates at one time
sticking to complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber
combining carbohydrates with protein or healthy fat