Gestational diabetes: what is it?
“Only two to five percent of pregnant women suffer from gestational diabetes,” says Johannesburg-based clinical dietician Kate Tattersall. “It’s more common in women who were overweight before they fell pregnant, who had raised blood sugar levels before they fell pregnant, who’ve had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, or who have a family history of diabetes.” And, interestingly, certain ethnic groups are also more at risk, specifically Africans and Asians.
Importantly, weight gain is closely linked to gestational diabetes, so a poor diet and lack of exercise can be triggers. “If you struggle with excess weight, try to lose the weight before trying to fall pregnant,” Kate advises.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS TO MOM AND BABY?
Unfortunately high blood sugar can
FOR THE BABY
An early delivery can mean that the baby’s organs aren’t fully developed before birth, and this can result in a respiratory distress syndrome, which means the lungs don’t work properly which could mean time spent in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).
The baby’s liver may also not work well, which can result in jaundice.
If your blood sugar levels stay high, your baby’s body will make extra insulin, and this can result in the baby having low blood sugar at birth.
Very rarely, the baby could die in the womb.
WHAT TO DO IF I’M DIAGNOSED WITH GESTATIONAL DIABETES?
“Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions, which will include dietary advice in order to reduce the risk of complications,” says Dr Matambo.
Your doctor will want to regularly check your blood sugar to make sure it’s
WILL YOU HAVE TO MAKE CHANGES TO YOUR DIET?
Eating right is one of the keys to managing gestational diabetes. Kate advises:
Eat small, regular meals containing healthy foods throughout the day to keep your blood sugar stable.
Focus on foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and dairy.
Choose fibre-rich foods such as brown rice instead of white rice or sweet potato instead of white pasta.
Proteins and fats help slow the rate at which carbohydrates are digested and cause a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream. Eat low fat proteins, such as skinless chicken, lean cuts of red meat, fish, eggs and low fat dairy. Eat healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts (raw and unsalted), seeds and olive oil.
Avoid obvious sources of sugar, such as honey, sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, fruit juice and fizzy drinks.
Check food labels and avoid processed foods with any of these sugars listed in the first four ingredients: sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, corn sweetener.
Don’t eat junk food – these are high