Managing gestational diabetes

By Published On: January 17th, 2012

Linda Caley, a registered dietitian with a private practice in Connecticut shares important information for expecting moms about gestational diabetes and how you can reduce your risk or manage your gestational diabetes post-diagnosis.

hands of the doctor with syringe, pregnancy, control blood in a laboratory
Pregnant women who have never had diabetes but develop high blood sugar (glucose) levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes (GDM). According to the American Diabetes Association, it is estimated that GDM affects 18 percent of pregnancies. GDM starts when your body is unable to make and use all of the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose can’t leave the blood and be used for energy and builds up in the blood to high levels. This is called hyperglycemia. For most women, gestational diabetes goes away once the baby is born, though for some, alterations in blood sugar will continue after birth resulting in type 2 diabetes.

Early and consistent prenatal care is imperative for optimal health of both mother and baby. If not managed, GDM may lead to complications such as large birth weight, organ defects of the baby and labor and delivery complications for the mother. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, there are things you can do to minimize risks of developing GDM as well as facilitate effective management of the condition if it is diagnosed.

Risk Factors for Developing Gestational Diabetes
• Older than 25 when pregnant
• A family history of diabetes
• Previously gave birth to a baby greater than 9 pounds or had birth defects
• Have high blood pressure
• Were overweight before becoming pregnant

Tips to Manage Gestational Diabetes (these tips can be used to avoid developing GDM as well)
• Regular appointments with your healthcare team, obstetrician, nurse educator and registered dietitian.
• Get back to basics and eat “real” food. Skip processed food and opt for nutrient rich items that include a variety of fresh vegetables, fruit, complex/unrefined carbohydrates and lean sources of protein and dairy.
• Decrease added sugar, regular soda, juice, candy and other sources of refined carbohydrates. These cause mom’s blood sugar to spike and put baby at increased risk.
• Wear a form of medical ID stating that you are pregnant with GDM. In the event of an emergency, the medical ID speaks on your behalf when you can’t. is one source for purchasing a customized bracelet.
• Eat 5-6 small meals and snacks a day. This provides consistent nutrition while minimizing spikes or dips in blood sugar.
• Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Movement helps the body use insulin and blood sugar more effectively and keeps weight gain in check.

The goal of treatment for GDM is to keep blood glucose levels equal to those of pregnant women who don’t have GDM. Once diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there are many things you can do to manage your blood glucose and provide the healthiest outcome for you and your baby. While gestational diabetes is a cause for concern, the good news is that you and your health care team can work together to lower your high blood glucose levels and risks for complications.

For more information on nutritional tips, visit Linda’s site,