Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy. It’s diagnosed when your blood sugar levels are too high, usually between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.
According to statistics, more than 1 in 6 women (17.9%) who gave birth in 2020-21 was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. It is now the fastest growing type of diabetes in Australia.
Complications of Gestational Diabetes
The potential risks of unmanaged gestational diabetes include:
- Large birth weight babies and increased risk of shoulder dystocia and other birth traumas
- Higher rates of c-section deliveries
- Postnatal infant hypoglycaemia
- Increased risk of mother developing Type II Diabetes
- Pre-term birth
How is Gestational Diabetes diagnosed?
It’s recommended all pregnant women are screened for gestational diabetes between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy.
The process involves having an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). This requires fasting for 8-12 hours (usually overnight) and then having a blood sample collected. After the blood test, you will drink 75mg of sugar then have your blood sugar levels tested at 1 hour and then 2 hours after ingestion. You will be asked to sit and wait between tests. If your blood glucose level is above the normal range, you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
It is important to note, you have the option to decline this screening test. If you wish to opt out of the usual screening process, it is a good idea to have your HBA1c tested before you conceive to pick up on poor blood glucose metabolism. However, all pregnant women with risk factors for developing gestational diabetes should be screened with the OGTT. Risk factors include:
- Glucose in the urine (found on routine urinalysis)
- Diabetes in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child)
- History of glucose intolerance, including gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
How to reduce your risk of Gestational Diabetes
Managing blood sugar during pregnancy should be a priority regardless of a diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Here are our tips for managing blood sugar for all pregnant women, including those with gestational diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. It is absolutely possible to manage gestational diabetes through a specially tailored diet and exercise.
Focus on a wholefood diet
Include a diet high in fresh fruit, non-starchy vegetables, essential fatty acids and healthy fats such as olive oil, eggs, avocado, raw nuts and seeds, as well as lean protein. These provide essential phytonutrients, antioxidants, magnesium and helps to control inflammation in the heart and blood vessels.
Avoid refined carbohydrates!
Its best to avoid sugar, sweets, fruit juices, white bread, pasta and potatoes. These foods have a high glycaemic index and are damaging in any amounts for diabetics.
Always pair your carbohydrates with a source of protein or fat.
This is because protein and fat take much longer to digest than carbohydrates which can help reduce spikes in blood sugar. This could look like eating an apple with some almond butter or natural greek yogurt at the same time.
Increase your fibre
Pregnant Mumma’s should aim for 25-30g of dietary fibre each day. Unlike simple carbohydrates, healthier complex carbohydrate options provide the body with essential fibre which is digested more slowly and doesn’t get converted into sugar. This is why complex carbohydrates are always the better choice as they produce less significant post-meal blood sugar spikes and may lead to lower insulin levels.
Move the body!
Physical activity lowers your glucose level, so regular exercise can be an effective way to manage gestational diabetes. Introducing walking after meals has been found to reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes and improve overall blood glucose control in women with Gestational Diabetes. Timing your walks for after meals may have a greater positive influence on Gestational Diabetes than simply walking for 30 minutes per day at a non-specific time.
Our absolute favourite supplement for Gestational Diabetes is the wonderful Inositol. Inositol is a supplement that can be used safely in pregnancy and has been found in studies to improve insulin sensitivity and decrease glucose levels. You can purchase it here
Speak with a Naturopath
If you are looking for help in preventing and managing diabetes or gestational diabetes, we can help you! Book in with one of our Naturopaths today to receive a tailored treatment plan.