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How to guide to gestational (pregnancy) diabetes – with expert Natasha Jo Leader APD, AN, CDE.

National Diabetes Week (Australia) kicks off from the 10th July, so we wanted to bring you a post on the topic. Everyone should assess their risk of diabetes as too many people walk around undiagnosed. But what happens when someone says you have diabetes during pregnancy? We have all the tips from our expert and a fantastic new blog to share too.

About our expert:

Natasha Jo Leader is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD), Accredited Nutritionist (AN) & Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE). She specialises in the management of diabetes in pregnancy. In addition to her private practice and hospital work she has partnered with Lisa Taylor, creator of the website Gestational Diabetes Recipes to help support women diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Natasha is passionate about the importance of healthy eating in pregnancy both for the mother and baby.

So you’ve made it through the nausea, the early pregnancy exhaustion. You’ve started to enjoy your pregnancy and are feeling great. You may be approaching the wrap up at work, juggling a toddler or two or renovating in time for bub…and then you’re told you have gestational diabetes (GDM). Clearly not an ideal development!

So, GDM, what’s it all about?

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It is caused by the placental hormones interfering with how your body processes the carbohydrates (bread, rice, milk, fruit, added sugars etc) you eat. You are at higher risk of GDM if:

  • You are over 35 years old
  • You were overweight or obese prior to pregnancy
  • You have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • You are of Asian, Indian, Polynesian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Aboriginal background
  • You have polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • You have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • You have had a baby weighing over 4kg at birth

GDM is not caused by what you eat but diet is certainly the key to managing it!

But I don’t feel unwell. Do I really have gestational diabetes?

It is rare to feel any different when you have gestational diabetes. However if you are not processing your carbohydrates normally, too much glucose stays in your blood stream and is then passed across the placenta to your baby. This can result in excessive growth and over-fatness of your baby, possible complications and greater intervention for delivery and a greater likelihood of weight problems and diabetes in your child as they get older. Good diabetes control can make a difference.

I’ve been diagnosed with GDM. What now?

Get in to see an endocrinologist or diabetes educator and a dietitian, preferably one that specialises in GDM (your doctor can refer you or check out Find an APD. You will be given diet advice and will start monitoring your blood glucose levels using a glucometer (fingerprick device). Exercise will also help – nothing over the top, but aiming for 30 minutes of low intensity activity across an average day. Perhaps try splitting this so that you are on your feet for a little while after each of your main meals.

What does the diet involve?

The diet for GDM is a balancing act. You want to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you and your baby need but you need to eat a similar carbohydrate load through the day and include regular snacks. This gives you the best chance of keeping your glucose levels from going too high.
Your health care provider with teach you about the correct amounts of carbohydrate to have. You should choose high fibre products and low GI items will help too.

As recommended to all for good health- choose low fat dairy, lean meats and avoid too many creamy, fried or oily dishes or high fat snacks. You should to avoid high carb drinks such as juice, cordial and soft drink. Lean protein foods (meat, fish, chicken, eggs etc) and non-starchy vegetables won’t affect your glucose levels and can help you to feel full. Until you see your health care professional you might want some guidelines to follow. Check out a sample diet.

Will I have to inject insulin?

Diet and exercise alone are not enough for all women. Some women will need insulin therapy as well and your health care provider will discuss this with you if your blood glucose levels are too high and your diet is already ideal.

What happens after my pregnancy?

Women who have GDM have a much higher risk of diabetes in the future so while the diagnosis of GDM can be distressing try to turn it into a positive experience. Take it as an opportunity to get things in check and be mindful of the importance of healthy eating and lifestyle for the long
term for both you and your children. Be sure to have follow-up after the pregnancy to reassess your glucose tolerance and talk to your doctor or educator about future pregnancy planning.

Want more information?

For delicious recipes, information and stories from other mothers with gestational diabetes visit Gestational Diabetes Recipes. Further information can also be found at www.adips.org.

Editor’s comment: Thanks Tasha. It’s fantastic to see dietitians team up with other bloggers and collaborate in this way. Your site is beautiful. It’s also wonderful to see such a rich resource for women and not just a patient handout. How about you lovely readers? Have you got a question for Tasha? Any experiences with diabetes in your family? Or personally?


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