Approximately 4 percent of women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Here's how to manage it.
Step 1: Know what gestational diabetes is. During pregnancy, increased hormone production requires more insulin to keep blood-sugar levels from getting too high. If the mother's pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to keep her blood sugar level normal, she becomes diabetic.
Step 2: Follow the diet your doctor gives you. It likely will consist largely of high-fiber fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes; simple sugars and carbohydrates will be limited. The goal of the diet is to maintain a normal blood-sugar level.
TIP: Three small, well-spaced meals and three snacks will help keep your blood sugar on an even keel.
Step 3: Exercise according to your obstetrician's guidelines. Experts say daily walking and swimming are especially good workouts for pregnant women.
Step 4: If diet and exercise don't bring down your blood-sugar levels, your doctor may have you inject yourself with insulin or take an oral medication.
Step 5: Keep on top of your condition by testing your blood sugar with a blood-glucose meter several times a day: When waking up in the morning; before each meal; and an hour or two after each meal. Call your doctor immediately if your blood-sugar level is high.
TIP: Acceptable blood sugar levels are 95 or less upon awakening; 140 or less an hour after meals; and 120 or less two hours after meals.
Step 6: Return to your doctor six to 12 weeks after giving birth to have your blood sugar retested. For most women, their blood-sugar levels return to normal after they give birth.
Step 7: Stick with your anti-diabetes diet and exercise plan so you won't become part of the approximately 50 percent of women who develop type 2 diabetes within five years of having gestational diabetes.
FACT: Giving birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds increases your risk of developing gestational diabetes during your next pregnancy.