In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, it’s important to remain or start becoming physically active, squeezing in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for three to four days per week.
“Moderate exercise is encouraged … In general, you want to do low-impact exercises, such as yoga, walking, swimming and step-ups,” Dr. Carter says. “In the first trimester, you want to go for moderate activity. In the last trimester, you may find that those same exercises cause you to become short of breath and seem more difficult. That’s because as the uterus grows, it starts to affect how much your diaphragm moves.”
Your health care team should include a doctor and nurse who specialize in diabetes along with a registered dietician. If you take medication for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or any other conditions, you’ll be advised to stop taking them. Furthermore, if you take insulin to control your blood glucose levels, you may be required to switch brands or adjust the dosage.
“There some classes of medications you shouldn’t take when you’re pregnant,” Dr. Carter says. “Some medications can cause birth defects, such as certain cholesterol medications like statins, ACE-inhibitors used for blood pressure control and blood thinners like Coumadin. Even care with herbals is important. For example, red yeast rice acts a lot like statins and should be avoided as well.”
Like most new mothers, you should be able to breastfeed your baby, but as a result, you may need to increase your caloric intake and lower your insulin for several days. Additionally, you’ll be at a higher risk of low blood glucose levels if you’re breastfeeding. Your doctor and dietician will sit down with you and recommend what, when and how often you should be eating on a daily basis.
All in all, it’s possible for women who have diabetes to be able to have a safe and healthy pregnancy, just as long as they follow the necessary precautions. “If you have diabetes and are thinking about becoming pregnant, planning is important,” Dr. Carter advises. “Before you become pregnant, talk with your doctor about how well-controlled your blood glucose is and if it’s not, talk about how to get it optimally controlled … planning [will help] ensure a successful pregnancy and healthy child.”