Thankfully for the majority of women who fall pregnant they will sail through pregnancy without any issues and the topic of Gestational Diabetes won’t need to be discussed in much depth. However, for the 3-5% of women that do go on to develop it; it can be a daunting and often disheartening realisation.
Gestational diabetes means diabetes mellitus which literally translates to high blood sugar that is first found during pregnancy. It usually starts around the middle or towards the end of pregnancy but it can start earlier. I received the news at 28 weeks pregnant after an over night stay in hospital when we discovered that not only was I measuring larger than expected for my dates but I had an unusually high amount of glucose in my urine. I was sent for an oral glucose tolerance test which measures the body’s ability to use glucose which is the body’s main source of energy.
This involved fasting for twelve hours prior to the test, although I was allowed to drink water but for any ladies going through this I’d check with your doctors first. The fasting glucose test was followed by a syrupy high sugar drink with a further test two hours later. When I received the telephone call with the news that I had developed gestational diabetes, I admit I was in denial and total shock.
Despite my best intentions to eat healthy and limit my sugar intake throughout my pregnancy; I was horrified at this new discovery and needless to say blamed myself entirely.
I felt slightly more reassured when the doctors explained that GD is often just another aspect that we can blame on our hormones during pregnancy. It happens when the body is unable to control blood sugar (glucose) levels and is thought to be a result of the hormones produced during pregnancy blocking the action of insulin in the body.
Your body needs extra insulin because hormones from the placenta make your body less responsive to it. When your body can’t meet the extra demand, your blood sugar levels rise and you may development GD. Keeping weight gain under control, eating healthy and ensuring you get adequate exercise sometimes just isn’t enough.
Can cause problems for you and your baby during and after birth. But the risk of these problems happening can be reduced if it’s detected early enough and well managed. So, remember to be on the look out for any changes, you know your own body, trust your gut instinct always and never be afraid to ask for a test, or a second opinion.
Thankfully mine was detected early and I was able to monitor my blood sugar levels daily. I kept a food diary and tested my blood sugar before and after my three main meals of the day. Luckily this enabled me to control the diabetes through managing the foods I ate and without the need for additional insulin injections or tablets. Gestational diabetes doesn’t usually cause any symptoms and most cases are picked up when your blood sugar level is tested during a routine or unplanned screening test. Looking back, my main symptom was increased thirst, oh and constantly needing to pee ( well more so than normal)
Because most of the symptoms can be normal pregnancy symptoms, it’s important to get yourself checked out if you feel something is amiss. Some women may develop symptoms if their blood sugar level gets too high such as: increased thirst, needing to pee more, a dry mouth and tiredness.
I feel It is important to add that most women with gestational diabetes have normal pregnancies with healthy babies. However, gestational diabetes can cause problems such as your baby growing larger than usual which may lead to difficulties during the delivery and a possible increase in needing an induced labour or a Caesarean birth. polyhydramnios – is when too much amniotic fluid can be produced (the fluid that surrounds the baby) in the womb, which can cause premature labour or problems during delivery. premature birth – giving birth before the 37th week of pregnancy or pre-eclampsia – a condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy.
If gestational diabetes is not treated your baby can develop low blood sugar or yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) after they’re born, which may require treatment in hospital. My son was born at 35 weeks after my amniotic fluid reduced beyond the normal range, which insanely isn’t something on the list of GD Symptoms and we still have not idea why is happened. His blood sugar levels were low but soon regulated themselves within twelve hours and thankfully he came home from hospital four days later.
My own blood sugars normalised, and I was tested four months post pregnancy and thankfully was given the all clear. Once you have been diagnosed, you will be more closely monitored during your pregnancy and birth to check for any potential problems. The only thing I removed completely was juicing. Whilst I will happily drink a carrot and ginger juice or apple and kale juice on occasion, I totally removed this from my daily routine once I was diagnosed. I love a super ripe banana added to my smoothie but the riper the banana the sweeter it is and the higher up on the glycemic index it will go.
For people with diabetes, juicing can cause blood glucose levels to soar. My personal preference; non caffeine safe herbal teas and plenty of water.
Alternatively, you can opt for a low sugar vegetable smoothie with water. Being dehydrated raises blood sugar levels by making your blood more concentrated, so remember to keep those fluids up. Good luck ladies and please remember this article is based upon my personal views and experiences. For specific questions regarding your diet and exercise plan, please always contact a professional.
I can still eat chocolate right?
Eating chocolate ranks pretty high on my fave things to do, but the jury’s still out on just how beneficial dark chocolate is for you.
Naturally, we all want to believe that the dark stuff is so good for us that munching our way through a family size pack is equal to chowing down on a bag of kale, oh if only. A few years back when I was reassessing just how much sugar I was eating; I swapped my chocolate treats to the darker stuff.
The higher the cocoa solid content the less sugar you will be consuming. Although the calories are roughly the same in milk chocolate and dark chocolate – counting calories is not what I am about. What I am about is healthy options. By eating the darker chocolate which contains more cocoa solids and less sugar we tend to eat less of it as it is richer and has a slightly bitter taste to it compared to milk chocolate.
But dark chocolate has more FAT
Grrrrrr why can’t things just be easy. A little while ago there was a huge write up about the flavanols in dark chocolate and this kicked off the whole DARK CHOCOLATE IS GOOD FOR YOU revelation that so many of us read about. Truth is you’d have to eat such a huge amount of dark chocolate for those flavanols to even have a positive effect and let us not forget that chocolate does contain caffeine which we know is a big NO NO that it’s really just not worth it – Apples and citrus fruit contain high levels of flavanols and well we know they’re good for us.
The one good thing we can take from replacing our chocolate craving with the dark stuff and is that it contains less sugar and eating chocolate raises our levels of endorphins and the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin YAY! So, there you have it – CHOCOLATE REALLY DOES MAKE US FEEL GOOD
Let’s talk about the Glycaemic Index
If you haven’t heard of the Glycaemic Index; you’re not alone. If you have been to see your Diabetic Consultant at the hospital, you’ll no doubt have been given the low down on the foods to avoid so as not to cause a sugar spike.
So, basically the Cliffs-Notes version of the GI – Carbohydrate is fundamental part of our diets and is crucial for our body to function, however, no two carbs are identical and the Glycaemic Index is the position and grouping of carbs in our food and how they affect our blood glucose level with the Glycaemic Load being the number that estimates how much the food we eat will raise our blood glucose levels. Simply put – the higher the number the higher our blood sugar levels increase. The ranking ranges from 0-100.
Carbohydrates with a low GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested by the body and therefore cause a slower rise in the glucose levels in our blood and in turn tend to keep the insulin levels lower. Proteins and fibre can affect the Glycaemic level of foods as well. When we cook vegetables we reduce the amount of fibre in them, over cooked broccoli anyone? When the fibre is removed or reduced in the cooking process our body absorbs it quicker
Low GI Snacks to keep your energy levels up.
Being at a healthy weight is important before and during pregnancy:
- It improves the chances of conception;
- It decreases the risk of complications during pregnancy and labour;
- Having a pre-pregnancy BMI <30 kg/m2 and healthy weight gain during pregnancy, reduces the risk of gestational diabetes;
- It increases the likelihood of being a healthy body weight post-pregnancy.
Diets that are high in fibre tend to be bulkier and of lower energy density. It has been suggested that dietary fibre may promote feelings of fullness and there is limited evidence that higher wholegrain consumption reduces energy intake. Alongside other strategies, high dietary fibre intake may help to aid weight loss before and after pregnancy and reduce the risk of excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
Fibre and gestational diabetes – A healthy diet and exercise are key factors in the management of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Foods that are rich in fibre typically have a low glycaemic index. There have been some studies that have looked at the association of low glycaemic index diets on GDM but these studies have reported conflicting findings. Randomised controlled trials suggest that a diet which is high in complex carbohydrates (using higher fibre and lower glycaemic index carbohydrates) may have some benefit but we cannot yet say this conclusively.
The recent SACN review looked specifically for evidence on fibre intake during pregnancy and the risk of developing GDM but the evidence was too limited to reach a firm conclusion.
For when you just need something sweet to get you through the day.
The following recipes are some of my absolute faves; you’ll not find any refined sugars in them; however if you’re watching your sugar levels if you’re suffering with gestational diabetes – air on the side of caution when it comes to consuming the recipes that contain naturally occurring sugars such as honey, maple syrup and coconut sugars.
Date and Walnut Granola Bars
These Date and Walnut Granola Bars are the perfect snack for munching on when you need an energy kick and they were a massive hit in our house, just remember to hide them somewhere safe if you have kids; mine loved these and they didn’t last as long as I would have liked, I’m also pretty sure the hubby munched his way through a fair amount too. Despite a face of denial!!I’ll admit, I struggle to eat dates whole and on their own but date puree or dates chopped up in cakes, energy balls and muffins are incredible. They give the perfect level of sweetness to treats and desserts and they have so many health benefits, I wish I’d discovered how versatile they could be sooner. Dates are also loaded with fibre to keep your digestive system running smoothly. And as a result, you’re less likely to deal with pregnancy-related constipation. Dates are also a source of Folate, which helps reduce the likelihood of birth defects. They also provide iron and vitamin K. View Recipe
Gluten Free Breakfast Muffins
Its muffin time again!! So the inspiration for these came after a trip to London at ridiculous O’clock and I needed something quick, something I could eat on the go and something that was healthy. I did walk past a certain burger joint about ten times first though. Hey I’m only human. Spinach is bursting with Folate, which makes it one of the best foods to eat when pregnant and the feta and sun dried tomatoes are a winning combo in any form.
Carrot and Courgette Blondies
These delicious Carrot and Courgette Blondies may be my new favourite treat. They’re sticky, rich and incredibly sweet which in my book is a perfect. Blondies are technically made in the same way that a chocolate brownie is made, however shock horror, they don’t have any chocolate in them. What gives them their rich taste and colour is the dark brown sugar in them and as I had a giant bag Coconut Sugar in the cupboard. It looks the same, smells the same and tastes the same so we’re onto a winner.⠀⠀Coconut sugar is made from the palm leaves of the coconut tree and is packed full of dietary fibre. It’s good to point out that despite being an alternative to refined sugar it does still in my opinion have a relatively high GI index so if you’re suffering with gestational diabetes proceed with the usual caution you would when consuming any sweet stuff. ⠀⠀
Date and Banana Flapjacks
I’m not really that keen on flapjacks, always found them to be too sweet and buttery but these delicious morsels contain zero butter and zero refined sugars, sweetened naturally with dates, bananas and a small tablespoon of honey for the entire batch. Packed full of oodles of energy boosting ingredients they are the perfect snack for any mums to be that need an energy boost. ⠀⠀⠀⠀
Nutty Caramel Chocolate Bars
The closest thing you’ll get to a refined sugar free healthy version of the delicious bars we ate as kids. CHEWY ✔ GOOEY ✔ CRUNCHY ✔ & covered in CHOCOLATE.WHO doesn’t love a good old fashioned Choccy bar???? ⠀⠀If you have the time to put these beauts together they’re totally worth it.
Date and Chocolate Cookies
SHOW ME THE COOKIES!!!!! Air with caution on these, despite no refined sugars, you can use honey or maple syrup – if you’re struggling with Gestational Diabetes these will still spike your sugar levels. Crispy, crunchy and chewy. Hell they’re cookies – I don’t need to big these up; the taste will speak for itself.
Sugar Free Carrot and Apple Muffins
Saturdays are for adventures and Sundays are for cuddling.. ⠀⠀
HAPPINESS on a Sunday for me is is also a muffin breakfast! Yes I know – I’m easily pleased. What’s your fave breakfast?⠀⠀These Apple and Carrot Breakfast Muffins are THE perfect breakfast for when you’re short of time and need to get out the door, they can be prepped in advance and freeze well and will keep for a week in an air tight container. They’re extra tasty warm with butter and the smell when they’re cooking is AMAZING.
Chocolate and Coconut Tray Bake
This chocolate tray bake is so light and fluffy, and contains no flour or refined sugars. It resembles that of a Swiss Roll but I used extra dark 95% cocoa chocolate and a little coconut oil which worked beautifully.
Chocolate Date Energy Balls
I’ve been struggling this week and feeling a bit blurgh so to get me out of this slump it’s time to bring in these bad boys. They’re slightly more decadent than the usual ones I like to munch on for breakfast & made with @godivauk extra dark 90% cocoa chocolate and a generous scoop of @wholeearthfoods Crunchy Organic Peanut Butter, they’re the perfect mid morning snack or quick fix for that mid afternoon energy slump. Actually scrap that, they’re just perfect for any time of the day.
Chocolate Beetroot Brownies
To say sweat, blood and tears have gone into perfecting this recipe would be a MASSIVE understatement. I have, on so many occasions tried to create a healthy chocolate brownie that is sweet, moist and rich in chocolate and on so many occasions I’ve failed miserably. The plus side of writing a food blog is I get to be the tester girl that tries the recipes out. Tough life I know but I’m also my own biggest critic when it comes to perfecting the taste. So my go to proof once I think I have nailed the recipe is always my kids. With a custom in built ability to taste sweetness and relate that sweetness to deliciousness, I know if they love it I’m onto a winner. I didn’t however dare mention that these were made with beetroot and I’m pretty sure my other taste tester – the husband would squirm if he knew, despite loving beetroot himself. I think he’d consider it a whole new level if I was to mention he’s chomping on the stuff in his brownies.