Managing Gestational Diabetes

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Getting a diagnosis of gestational diabetes after your glucose tests can be overwhelming. While there are ways to help manage and monitor gestational diabetes, it can feel like a lot of information to absorb.

You may have emotional stress about how it may affect your health and that of the baby. Learning to cope in a healthy way can help you more effectively manage your gestational diabetes.

This article will provide coping tips and ways to address different sources of stress while living with gestational diabetes.

Pregnant person on a walk next to the sea

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Emotional

Pregnancy can be an emotional time anyway because of all the changes happening—not just physically but personally. You're adding another person to the family, and you might not know what to expect. There may be financial worries or worries about juggling work and parenting.

You want the pregnancy to be healthy and uneventful, so a diagnosis of gestational diabetes might be stressful or upsetting.

This is completely normal. The good news is that gestational diabetes can be managed and monitored. Following dietary modifications, adding physical activity your healthcare provider has approved, and adhering to any testing and medications your provider has prescribed can help to control your blood sugar.

Stress management techniques can help you cope with the stress of your diagnosis. These can include:

  • Deep breathing and focusing on your breath
  • Mindfulness techniques
  • Apps like Calm or other relaxation and mindfulness apps
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Getting enough sunshine
  • Regular physical activity
  • Asking for help when you need it and being specific about the help you need
  • Accepting help and support when offered

Signs that you may benefit from seeing a mental health professional include:

  • Your emotions are getting in the way of everyday activities.
  • You're extremely anxious or depressed.
  • You are isolating yourself from friends.
  • You can't get work done.
  • You can't take care of yourself.

Tell a trusted friend or your partner, or talk with your healthcare provider. They can help you find a mental health professional who can provide support and share coping tools for you to use.

Physical

One of the treatments often recommended for gestational diabetes is regular moderate-intensity exercise (if it's safe for you to do). Exercise helps lower blood sugar and allows your body to be more sensitive to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar.

If you are overweight, exercise can also help you control your weight and safely lose a few pounds if need be. Even weight loss of a couple of pounds can make a difference.

Brisk walking is a good exercise and something that can easily be added to your routine without being too overwhelming. (Check with your healthcare provider to ensure it's OK to start an exercise regimen).

If you find it hard to get motivated or stick to a workout schedule, make it fun. Ask a friend to join you on your walks or find a local walking club. If you're self-conscious, pick a time when fewer people may be at the park, like during the school day or early morning.

Your healthcare provider may ask you to monitor your glucose levels at home with a blood glucose meter. This involves withdrawing a drop of blood from your finger. Your provider will show you how to do it and let you know what range your glucose levels should be in and when and how often to measure your blood glucose.

Social

Getting support during pregnancy, especially with any unexpected diagnoses during pregnancy like gestational diabetes, is important. Your maternity care provider might have suggestions or resources for a local in-person support group.

An online support group, message board, or pregnancy app can provide social support, as well. Online communities are great places to learn more about your condition and talk with others from all over the country (or world) who are in a similar situation. You can use them any time of day or night.

If you're feeling down or anxious, you might feel like isolating yourself and stay home. But try to reach out to a friend by phone or meet up with them for coffee, a walk, or a meal. Being around others who are supportive and with whom you're comfortable can be a big boost emotionally.

Practical

Your maternity care provider may provide you with diet and nutrition recommendations. In the past, low-carbohydrate diets were often recommended. However, these kinds of diets were often unsustainable long term. There is more evidence for low glycemic index (GI) diets. These diets have been associated with:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced insulin requirements
  • Less need for diabetes medication both during and after pregnancy

Avoiding things like processed foods, sugary drinks, and fast food can also help control blood glucose levels.

If you’re having a hard time with your recommended meal plan, have an honest talk with your healthcare provider. Let them know what aspects of it are difficult. They may be able to give you some tips or tricks or even make some alternative suggestions that are still within the bounds of your meal plan.

A dietitian who specializes in gestational diabetes can be a helpful resource as well. They can work with you to come up with a meal plan that you’ll be more likely to use.

Sometimes, despite exercise and lifestyle modifications, medication may be necessary for some people. If you need to use insulin, your healthcare provider will show you how. It is safe to use during pregnancy.

If you think you might need help with insulin shots, have your partner or other loved one or caregiver come with you to learn the method of administering them.

Summary

Gestational diabetes can be an overwhelming diagnosis. A new diagnosis that requires monitoring and carries potential risks to your health and that of your baby can be worrisome.

Effective emotional coping skills can help you manage your stress and can make living with gestational diabetes a little less challenging. Physical activity and dietary changes may be recommended to help manage your blood sugar levels. Social support can help during this time.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re having trouble coping and finding it difficult to adhere to a treatment plan for gestational diabetes, tell your healthcare provider as soon as possible. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it merely means you need some extra help and support.

It’s important that the guidelines are followed, because this helps you stay as healthy as possible. Providing you with support can help make your maternity care the best care it can be.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you prevent gestational diabetes?

    Some risk factors can't be modified as they are genetic or age related. Ways to reduce the risk include maintaining a healthy weight before and during pregnancy, participating in regular physical activity, and eating a healthy diet.

    If you are worried about potential risk factors, have had previous gestational diabetes, or have a family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes, let your maternity care provider know.

  • Does gestational diabetes affect your baby?

    Gestational diabetes can affect your baby. Possible complications for the baby can include:

    • Macrosomia (baby weighs more than 8 pounds): Increases the risk of things like shoulder dystocia (the baby's shoulders are trapped during labor) and needing a cesarean section (surgical delivery)
    • Preterm birth: Birth before 37 weeks of gestation
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and white of the eyes)
    • Low blood sugar
    • Obesity or diabetes later in life
    • Breathing problems, including respiratory distress syndrome
  • Does gestational diabetes go away after birth?

    Sometimes, but not always. After you give birth, you should be tested for diabetes no later than 12 weeks postpartum. If you still have high blood sugar, you might now have type 2 diabetes.

    Even if your blood sugar is normal, you should still be tested for diabetes every one to three years. About 50% of people with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes at some point after giving birth.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gestational diabetes.

  3. American Diabetes Association. Gestational diabetes: treatment & perspective.

  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Managing & treating gestational diabetes.

  5. Mahajan A, Donovan LE, Vallee R, Yamamoto JM. Evidenced-based nutrition for gestational diabetes. Current Diabetes Reports. 2019;19,94. doi:10.1007/s11892-019-1208-4

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes risk factors.

  7. March of Dimes. Gestational diabetes,

  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders. After your baby is born.