Three Tips for Managing Gestational Diabetes

There is more than one way to manage Gestational Diabetes (GDM) throughout pregnancy, and each day can look a little different. Our bodies aren’t perfectly manicured machines, so we can’t expect the same responses from them day after day. Inevitably, there will be days you may feel confident in cueing into your body’s needs and there will be days that your GDM may throw you for a total loop. 

You can’t be expected to become your own medical provider overnight – in fact, I’d advise against trying to! It’s important to take things one day at a time, and to surround yourself with the tools and support you need to successfully manage your diabetes and enjoy this chapter before baby.

A dietitian knowledgeable of managing gestational diabetes can be so helpful in navigating the day-to-day decision making when it comes to meals and snacks, eating out, fueling for physical activity, hormone balance, and so much more. Of course, this blog is only for educational purposes and should not be taken as medical advice or interfere with advice you’ve received from your physician.

Here are three tips for managing gestational diabetes:

Eating to manage Gestaional diabetes doesn’t have to be as complicated as you might think.

The first thing we often hear from clients diagnosed with GDM is, “What can I eat?” In short, just about anything. Aside from foods not recommended in pregnancy (alcohol, raw fish, etc.), your food choices can remain very similar to how they did prepartum. There are simply more factors to consider at meal and snack time – like timing, macronutrient-pairing, and general hormone balance. Having a dietitian by your side to help navigate this is invaluable. It’s so easy to get swept up in the mumbo jumbo you hear on TV or from overly concerned coworkers quick to dish unsolicited advice. Your RD will tailor your nutritional needs for you and you only – because no matter what your coworker tells you, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for GDM. Before meeting with your RD, continue intake as you have been throughout pregnancy. You don’t need to make any drastic changes or cut out food groups in fear of harming your baby or yourself. 

MovE in a way that feels good to your body and stage of pregnancy.

For the most part, physical activity in pregnancy can remain consistent with physical activity you were engaging in before conception. However, the most important thing here is to listen to your body. As your pregnancy progresses certain types of movement will feel better than others. There is also a growing group of personal trainers and physical therapists who are offering movement options that pay special attention to the mechanics of pregnancy, can help your body prepare for childbirth, and offer some support for back and pelvic health. We recommend programs like Heal Your Core With Yoga and One Strong Mama (affiliate link). If you’re looking for inclusive body positive exercise options you might also want to check out Body Positive Fitness Finder – an app that lets you find body positive fitness classes in your area and The be.come Project – movement for all bodies with guided pregnancy modifications

If “working out” wasn’t your thing prior to pregnancy, or you’re just not feeling up for it, don’t feel the need to engage in strenuous and vigorous activity now – this can actually be dangerous. Small amounts of low-impact physical activity can help to lower blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity – that is, your pancreas makes more insulin and/or insulin is more efficient in delivering glucose to your cells. This can be as simple as an after-lunch walk around the block. Some Yoga (not hot), Pilates, and Barre classes are easy on joints as well, and often have specific pregnancy modifications.

For the adventure-seekers, be sure to talk to your doctor about safe-for-pregnancy exercises. While the free climbing and skydiving memberships may need to be paused – your doc can help answer to the specifics of different forms of exercise.

Work with your provider to collect data about your body and create a responsive and individualized plan.

There are some predictable physiological responses that occur in just about everyone with gestational diabetes. We can use that, in conjunction with where you’re currently at with food and movement, as a less-invasive way of managing GDM day after day. Testing your blood sugars gives you a more detailed overview of your own body’s responses to different foods, physical activity, and hormone balance throughout the day. You can think of it as making the choice to get dressed in the morning based on your general knowledge of the weather patterns in your area vs. always checking the forecast. Sometimes it works out just fine, sometimes you’re left in the rain without an umbrella, and sometimes you check the forecast, dress accordingly and weather patterns change unexpectedly. Your dietitian will meet you wherever you’re most comfortable, and talk about a routine that best fits your individual needs. 

Bonus Tip: Don’t go at it alone


We recognize that insurance coverage can be really spotty, and the thought of adding another provider and appointment to your schedule and wallet can seem grueling. Talk with your insurance company about what kind of counseling is covered under a Gestational Diabetes diagnosis and advocate for what you need. While perfectly manageable under the right care, Gestational Diabetes affects less than 10% of pregnancies and is not common knowledge to many providers. Finding a professional who specializes in diabetes in pregnancy can really help make your experience a positive one. We’re here to help at Nutrition Instincts! Schedule a free call today.

Photo of Maddie White, RD, dietitian at Nutrition Instincts San Diego Nutrition TherapyMaddie White, an eating disorder and diabetes care provider at Nutrition Instincts is passionate about helping others restore their relationships with food, body, and mind. Maddie also works as a clinical dietitian in a local San Diego Acute Care Hospital and previously managed youth programing at the American Diabetes Association for San Diegans living with type 1 diabetes. Maddie believes intuitive eating holds a space for everyone and every body. By taking an individual approach with each client, Maddie walks alongside her clients as they learn the best way to navigate your journey to food and body freedom.   Interested in working with Maddie? Schedule a clarity call today!

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