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Gestational Diabetes - Treatment Overview

Finding out that you have gestational diabetes can be scary. It can be reassuring to know that most women who have gestational diabetes give birth to healthy babies and that you are the most important person in promoting a healthy pregnancy.

Treatment for gestational diabetes involves making healthy choices. Most women who make changes in the way that they eat and how often they exercise are able to keep their blood sugar level within a target range. Controlling your blood sugar is the key to preventing problems during pregnancy or birth.

You, your doctor, and other health professionals will work together to develop a treatment plan just for you. You do not need to eat strange or special foods. But you may need to change what, when, and how much you eat. You also do not need to start a fancy exercise program or join an expensive gym. Walking several times a week can really help your blood sugar.

The lifestyle changes you make now will help you have a healthy pregnancy and prevent diabetes in the future. As you start making these changes, you will learn more about your body and how it reacts to food and exercise. You may also notice that you feel better and have more energy.

During pregnancy

Treatment for gestational diabetes during pregnancy includes:

  • Eating a balanced diet. After you find out that you have gestational diabetes, you will meet with a registered dietitian to create a healthy eating plan. You will learn how to limit the amount of carbohydrate you eat as a way to control your blood sugar. You may also be asked to write down everything you eat and to keep track of your weight. In general, it is not a good idea to diet while you are pregnant. Most doctors recommend that women gain 25 lb (11.3 kg) to 35 lb (15.9 kg) during pregnancy. But if you are overweight or obese, your doctor may recommend that you eat less and gain less weight than other pregnant women. Overweight or obese women have a higher risk for high blood pressure and a blood circulation problem called preeclampsia.
  • Getting regular exercise. Try to do at least 2½ hours a week of moderate exercise.4, 5 One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week. Regular, moderate exercise during pregnancy helps your body use insulin better and helps control your blood sugar level. If you have never exercised regularly or were not exercising before you became pregnant, talk with your doctor before you start exercising. Low-impact activities, such as walking or swimming, are especially good for pregnant women. You may also want to try special exercise classes for pregnant women.
  • Checking blood sugar levels. An important part of treating gestational diabetes is checking your blood sugar level at home. Every day, you will do a home blood sugar test one or more times. It may be overwhelming to test your blood sugar so often. But knowing that your level is within a target range can help put your mind at ease. Talk to your doctor about how often to test your blood sugar.
  • Monitoring fetal growth and well-being. Your doctor may want you to monitor fetal movements called kick counts and let him or her know if you think your baby is moving less than usual. You may also have fetal ultrasounds to see how well your baby is growing. You may have a nonstress test to check how well your baby's heart responds to movement.
  • Getting regular medical checkups. Having gestational diabetes means regular visits to your doctor. At these visits, your doctor will check your blood pressure and test a sample of your urine. You will also discuss your blood sugar levels, what you have been eating, how much you have been exercising, and how much weight you have gained.
  • Taking insulin shots. The first way to treat gestational diabetes is by changing the way you eat and exercising regularly. If your blood sugar levels are still too high after changing the way you eat and exercising regularly, you may need insulin shots. Insulin can help lower your blood sugar level without harming your baby. Some doctors are using pills called glyburide and metformin to treat women who have gestational diabetes.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 28, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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