Managing gestational diabetes

When a woman gets pregnant the first concern is keeping the developing baby healthy. Learn about the risk factors that could lead to gestational diabetes and some basic nutritional guidelines.

Pregnancy can be a time of excitement and worry for any new expectant mother. As an expectant mother you begin to ask yourself, “How do I keep my developing child healthy?” A new mother can make many healthy choices to protect their baby. 

Expectant mothers often do not think about the risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy. Diabetes that develops during pregnancy is called gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes develops around the middle of the pregnancy and ends after delivery. According to the American Diabetic Association an estimated 18 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. Women with a family history of diabetes, obese women, women with problematic pregnancies and women over the age of 40 are at greatest risk for developing gestational diabetes. 

Most women are told to avoid alcoholic beverages, drug use and stop smoking. In addition one should get plenty of rest, stay physically active and eat wisely. Eating wisely is an important step to helping your child develop into a healthy baby but often mothers wonder, “How much weight should I gain?” Appropriate weight gain is a key factor to your baby’s birth weight. If you don’t gain enough, your chance for delivering a low birth weight baby increases. Per the American Dietetic Association, at birth, babies weighing less than five-and-a-half pounds are at greater risk of developing health problems and developmental delays. If you gain too much weight, you may be at risk of having a difficult birth and post-pregnancy obesity. Proper weight gain depends on your body mass index (BMI). An expectant mother should talk to her doctor about the appropriate weight gain for her and the baby. 

It is important to manage your diet during pregnancy, but if you run the risk of gestational diabetes, close attention should be paid to your food intake. Generally healthy eating while adding nutrient rich foods to your meal plan will provide the mother and baby the needed nutrients for the development of a healthy baby. The Institute of Medicine advises adding between 340-450 extra calories per day after the first trimester. No extra calories are needed during the first trimester. Eating for two doesn’t mean your calorie need doubles. When you are pregnant women have a higher need for some vitamins and minerals. Making choices from each food group will ensure receiving the vitamins and minerals needed. For detailed nutrition information, go to the food guide for pregnant women at choosemyplate.gov. Women who develop gestational diabetes should work closely with their health care team, including a registered dietician who can guide them in a proper daily meal plan.

Michigan State University Extension offers programming throughout the state to educate about diabetes and ways to manage chronic conditions. To become involved or for more information, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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