Increased blood sugar levels are bad for everyone, more so for pregnant women. Not only does it affect their health, but it can affect the health of the baby.
Pregnancy is the time when a woman experiences various changes in the body. Some of the changes can be negative, such as increased blood sugar levels. Diabetes is a problem pregnant women can face. Not only does it affect their health, but it can affect the health of the baby. In this article, we take a look at the problems posed by high blood sugar in pregnant women with tips on keeping it under control.
Effect of high blood sugar on mother and baby
Increased blood sugar levels are bad for everyone, more so for pregnant women. A pregnant woman suffering from high blood sugar levels is at risk of developing diabetes in the future. She may be more likely to require a C-section delivery rather than a normal delivery. High blood pressure and preeclampsia, a life-threatening condition, is a risk.
A more worrying fact is that high blood sugar can have a serious effect on the baby. These are the possible effects of high blood sugar on the baby:
- The baby can be born before the due date, which may call for preterm birth.
- The baby is at risk of becoming overweight. Large babies lead to risky delivery, necessitating C-section deliveries.
- Respiratory distress syndrome, where a baby experiences breathing problems, is a risk that occurs due to high blood sugar levels.
- When the mother has high blood sugar levels, the baby is at risk of having low blood sugar. This may cause seizures in the baby.
- The baby is at risk of becoming overweight and/or developing diabetes later in life.
- One of the biggest risks for the baby is stillbirth, where the baby is born dead.
- The baby is at risk of developing birth defects that can affect the heart, brain, and spinal cord.
All these are serious risks a baby can face when the mother has high blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes prevalent in pregnant women. It is diabetes diagnosed for the first time in a woman after becoming pregnant. In most women with gestational diabetes, blood sugar levels are likely to return to normal after delivery. However, these women are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on.
Gestational diabetes leads to increased blood sugar levels. The baby’s placenta creates hormones as the baby grows. Sometimes, these hormones can affect insulin production, causing gestational diabetes. Women older than 25 and those who are overweight are more at risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Ideal blood sugar levels for pregnant women
The blood sugar levels for pregnant women are usually checked through the OGTT or oral glucose tolerance test. After fasting for 8+ hours, the pregnant woman is given 75 grams of glucose orally. The blood sugar is then tested after one hour. A blood sugar level of less than 190 mg/dL (10.6 mmol/L) is considered ideal sugar levels. Anything more than that is diagnosed as gestational diabetes. The test would be repeated before confirming diabetes. The test is usually done between 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Tips for blood sugar control during pregnancy
The following tips can be very helpful for pregnant women to keep their blood sugar levels under control:
- It is important to take medications as prescribed by the doctor. Some pregnant women may need insulin injections. Whatever treatment is prescribed by the doctor needs to be strictly followed.
- Physical activity is very important for pregnant women. Exercise helps pregnant women to be fit. The very important benefit of exercise is that it helps reduce blood sugar levels. Around 30 minutes of moderate exercise is advised for at least 5 days a week. Walking is a good exercise for women who have not been exercising before pregnancy. The advice of the doctor is a must before starting any exercise routine. Yoga can also be helpful for pregnant women. It can give them a number of health benefits, including reduced blood sugar levels.
- Regular testing of blood sugar levels is usually recommended to ensure the levels don’t become too high. These tests can be done with home kits. Some women may be recommended to check levels twice a day, morning and after lunch.
- The following should be strictly avoided by women having gestational diabetes:
- Fast food, fried food, and baked goods.
- Beverages containing alcohol.
- Sugar beverages of all types, including fruit juices.
- Starchy food like white rice and white pasta.
- Candy and sweetened snacks.
- Diet plays an important role in the treatment of gestational diabetes. The following are dietary tips that pregnant women should follow:
- Eating smaller meals is recommended with healthy snacks in-between meals. Every meal must include protein.
- Pregnant women must never skip a meal.
- A balanced diet is important. Complex carbs like legumes, whole grains, and starchy vegetables should be preferred.
- Milk has calcium that is needed for pregnant women and is recommended to be included in the diet.
- One serving of fruit should be a part of the diet. Canned fruit should not be eaten. Berries are a great option for pregnant women, preferably eaten with yogurt.
- Adding fiber to the diet is a must. Whole grain, brown rice, whole oats, millets, lentils, split peas are recommended to be included in the diet. Vegetables have good fiber content and should be included in the diet.
- Pregnant women should be careful with their breakfast choices as it can lead to blood sugar spikes. Whole grains with food having protein are recommended for breakfast.
- Healthy snacks between meals can help control food cravings. It also provided the nutrients the mother and the baby need. Some of the snack options include:
- Salads containing vegetables can be eaten with hummus or cheese.
- Sweet potato toast with a topping of mashed avocado and tomatoes.
- Yogurt (unsweetened) with a topping of apple pieces, sunflower seeds, and a little cinnamon.
- Omelet made with whole egg or with nutritious vegetables.
All these tips can be helpful for pregnant women to keep their blood sugar levels under control. They need to be followed to protect themselves and their babies.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Avery K.
When she isn’t looking after the many needs of her 2 kids, Avery enjoys taking walks in the park, enjoying nature, and getting her daily fix of caffeine.