How do I monitor my blood sugar if I have gestational diabetes?

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 in control, or if you need extra insulin to protect your developing baby. Your doctor will tell you when and how often to test your blood sugar.

Testing your blood sugar involves the following steps:

  • Pricking your finger with a lancet device (a small, sharp needle);
  • Putting a drop of blood on a test strip;
  • Using a blood glucose meter to display your results;
  • Recording the results in a log book; and,
  • Disposing of the lancet and strips properly (in a used "sharps" container or a hard plastic container, such as a laundry detergent bottle).

Bring your blood sugar readings with you to your doctor appointments. He or she can evaluate how well your sugar levels are controlled, and can decide if changes need to be made to your treatment plan.

Your doctor, nurse, or diabetes educator will show you how to use a glucose meter. He or she can also tell you where to get a meter. You may be able to borrow it from your hospital, as many hospitals have loaner meter programs for women with gestational diabetes.

The goal of monitoring is to keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible. The ranges include:

Time of test

You may be instructed to check your blood sugar:

  • When you wake up
  • Just before meals
  • 1-2 hours after each meal

Target blood glucose reading

< 95 mg/dL < 140 mg/dL < 120 mg/dL

How will my diet change if I have gestational diabetes?

Here are some goals for healthy eating during pregnancy if you have gestational diabetes:

  • Eat three small meals and two or three snacks at regular times every day. Do not skip meals or snacks.
  • Eat less carbohydrate at breakfast than at other meals because this is when insulin resistance is the greatest.
  • Try to eat the same amount of carbohydrate during each meal and snack.
  • If you have morning sickness, eat 1-2 servings of crackers, cereal, or pretzels before getting out of bed. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day and avoid fatty, fried, and greasy foods. If you take insulin and have morning sickness, make sure you know how to treat low blood sugar.
  • Choose foods that are high in fiber, such as whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Eat foods with less sugar and fat.
  • Drink at least 8 cups (or 64 ounces) of liquids per day.
  • Make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your daily diet. Ask your doctor about taking a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement to meet the nutritional needs of your pregnancy.

Should I exercise if I have gestational diabetes?

Every pregnant woman should check with her doctor before beginning an exercise program. Your doctor can give you personal exercise guidelines, based on your medical history. Thirty minutes of exercise every day, or most days, will help manage gestational diabetes.

Since both insulin and exercise lower blood sugar, you should follow these additional exercise guidelines to avoid a low blood sugar reaction:

  • Always carry some form of sugar, such as glucose tablets or hard candy.
  • Eat one serving of fruit or the equivalent of 15 grams of carbohydrate for most activities lasting 30 minutes. If you exercise right after a meal, eat this snack after exercise. If you exercise two hours or more after a meal, eat the snack before exercise.

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