Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes is characterized by how the body uses sugar. Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar. This can affect both the pregnant mother and the health of the baby. While avoiding any pregnancy complication altogether is optimal, the good news is that women who do get gestational diabetes can control the condition through following a healthy diet, exercising, and possibly taking medications.
Pump up the iron
One of the most essential nutrients for pregnant women is iron. During pregnancy, the amount of blood in a woman’s body increases by up to 50%. This means that a woman needs more iron to help that extra hemoglobin to continue carrying oxygen to the body. Many women begin pregnancy with low iron levels, leading to a higher risk of an anemic pregnancy. Anemia during pregnancy can lead to pre-term delivery, a low birth weight, or tiredness, irritability, and depression in the pregnant mother. In addition to taking prenatal vitamins, pregnant moms-to-be can focus on eating iron-rich foods such as dried beans, fortified cereals, lean meat, poultry, dark, leafy greens, and whole grains.
Calcium is key
During pregnancy, getting enough calcium is vital. Women should aim for at least 4 servings of dairy and calcium-rich foods per day. Additionally, choosing from a variety of dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese, or yogurt will help ensure that women are getting the recommended 220 micrograms of daily iodine. Iodine contributes to the baby’s brain and nervous system development.
Pick your protein
Especially in the second and third trimesters, pregnant women should focus on getting at least one serving of protein with every meal. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and beans are all good sources of protein that also contain B vitamins and iron. Although fish is an excellent source of protein, women should be mindful of mercury intake during pregnancy. Some types of fish, such as salmon, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are also important for the brain and eye development of the baby. Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D, which is vital for the baby’s bones and teeth. However, general recommendations are to limit fish intake to twice a week during pregnancy.
Are there any foods I should avoid?
Some hormonal changes during pregnancy can put women at a higher risk of contracting a foodborne illness. Women can reduce this risk by exercising caution around deli meats, hot dogs, and other lunch meats. Make sure that all meat is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165°F and that everyone handling the food has clean hands.
Is there anything else I should do?
Doctors don’t know exactly why some women develop gestational diabetes. However, there are some risk factors and preventive measures women can take. Besides eating a nutritious, balanced diet, women can keep weight under control with regular exercise. Women with gestational diabetes can give birth to healthy babies and, usually, gestational diabetes goes away after pregnancy. Women should consult with a healthcare provider on an individual basis about what to eat during pregnancy and how to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.