Being pregnant is a huge feat of physical, emotional, and psychological strength. Every woman who has gone through at least one pregnancy can attest to that, and along with the changes that your body goes through is the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
During pregnancy, your body naturally becomes resistant to insulin. This allows for glucose to be redirected to your baby to provide them with energy for development and growth. However, this process sometimes goes unsteady and your body either stops responding to insulin or makes too little insulin to give you enough glucose. The result is an elevated level of glucose in your bloodstream and this can cause gestational diabetes.
Your doctor will evaluate your risk factors for gestational diabetes and will most likely have you tested if your risk is high. This usually occurs during your first prenatal examination. If you have immediate family members with diabetes, or if you have had gestational diabetes in the past, this means that you have a higher risk of getting it on your current pregnancy. Other risk factors that your OB might look for would be obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Your initial screening will be the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test or OGTT. During this test, you will be asked to drink a glucose solution and wait an hour before having your blood tested. A normal blood sugar level would be below 130 to 140 mg per deciliter (mg/dL), or 7.2 to 7.8 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). A higher blood sugar level might mean you have a higher risk of getting gestational diabetes.
A follow-up glucose testing will be required if you tested positive in the initial screening, and it involves an overnight fast. Your blood will be drawn, then you will be given another glucose solution that tastes sweeter than the previous one you had. Your blood glucose level will then be checked once every hour for three hours afterward. If two out of three blood tests come out positive, you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
There is actually no need to prepare or follow a particular diet plan before taking the glucose test. Your doctor will give you instructions regarding the test. Most doctors require their patients to fast for 8 to 12 hours prior to the test, while some doctors ask their pregnant patients to load up. Heed your doctor’s advice as they are the ones who have your records, medical history, and current state. This is the only way to get accurate results.
However, it would help to start a balanced diet during your pregnancy if you haven’t. Twenty-four weeks, which is around the time you will probably get tested, is still not too late to change your eating habits for the better. If you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it does not necessarily mean that you will have diabetes even after giving birth; but it may increase your risk to develop type 2 diabetes later on. Therefore, you can never go wrong with watching what you eat and paying close attention to your carbohydrates, protein, and fat intake.
Carbohydrates. Opt for healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, legumes, brown rice, low-sugar fruits, and starchy vegetables. Aim for or a daily total of 120 to 195 grams of carbohydrates, spread out across three meals and two snacks in between. Avoid eating too many carbohydrates in one meal, and do not skip meals.
Protein. Eat lean, protein-rich foods such as fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, quinoa, and legumes. Aim to eat a total of 60 grams of protein a day, spread out across frequent meals.
Fats. Choose unsaturated fats such as olive oil and peanut oil when cooking or dressing your salads. Foods with unsaturated fats include avocados, salmon, sardines, tuna, chia seeds, as well as most nuts and seeds.