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Managing gestational diabetes in pregnancy

It is important for a woman diagnosed with gestational diabetes to monitor and manage the condition for a healthy pregnancy.

Monitoring blood glucose levels will be done at antenatal appointments and with home testing kits.

Changing diet and taking more exercise may be all the treatment some women need, while others may need diabetes medication.

What are the complications of gestational diabetes?

When gestational diabetes is not managed appropriately, possible complications include miscarriage, premature birth, excessive growth of the baby - which can lead to problems delivering the baby and a risk of a baby suffering shoulder damage – problems for the baby including low blood sugar after being born, and stillbirth.

However, with appropriate treatment you can deliver a healthy baby despite having gestational diabetes.

How is gestational diabetes managed?

Gestational diabetes is managed by:

  • Monitoring blood sugar levels regularly during the day
  • Monitoring urine for ketones (an acid that indicates your diabetes is not under control)
  • Following specific dietary guidelines as advised by your doctor. You'll be asked to distribute your calories evenly throughout the day
  • Exercising after obtaining your doctor’s approval
  • Monitoring weight gain
  • Taking insulin, if necessary
  • Controlling high blood pressure

How do I monitor my blood sugar levels?

Testing your blood sugar at certain times of the day will help determine if your exercise and eating patterns are keeping your blood sugar levels controlled, or if you need extra treatment to protect your developing baby. Your doctor will ask you to keep a daily food diary and ask you to record your home blood sugar levels.

Testing your blood sugar involves pricking your finger with a lancet device (a small, sharp needle), putting a drop of blood on a test strip, using a blood sugar meter to display your results, recording the results in a log book, and then disposing of the lancet and strips properly (in a "sharps" container which is available on prescription from your doctor).

Bring your blood sugar readings with you to your doctor’s appointments so the doctor can evaluate how well your blood sugar levels are controlled and determine if changes need to be made to your treatment plan.

Your doctor or nurse will show you how to use a glucose meter. All the information and equipment you need should be available through your doctor.

Do I need to take insulin for gestational diabetes?

Based on your blood sugar monitoring results, your doctor will tell you if you need to take insulin in the form of injections during pregnancy. Insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar. If insulin is prescribed for you, you will be taught how to perform the insulin injection procedure.

As your pregnancy progresses, the placenta will make more pregnancy hormones and larger doses of insulin may be needed to control your blood sugar. Your doctor will adjust your insulin dosage based on your blood sugar log.

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