Any pregnancy can introduce some jitters—whether it’s your first or even if fourth baby. There’s managing the physical aspects of pregnancy (the nausea, the fatigue, the swollen ankles), the hormonal mood swings, the anxiety over all the what-ifs … we can go on. Now enter a diagnosis of gestational diabetes into the mix and everything can feel all the more overwhelming.
First of all, let go of any guilt. “[Gestational diabetes] is not your fault,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a nutritionist in New York City. All pregnant women experience some degree of insulin resistance toward the middle to end of pregnancy due to all those cooking-a-baby-related changes in the body. Women who cannot produce enough insulin to overcome the shortfall develop gestational diabetes.
Finding positive ways to cope with both your pregnancy and gestational diabetes benefits both you and your future mini-me. Prolonged stress can cause health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease, and it can increase the risk of delivering your baby prematurely. A 2012 study by psychologists at the University of California-Los Angeles found that “chronic stressors” during pregnancy were associated with 2 to 3.8 times the risk of having a baby with low birth weight.
It’s entirely possible to have a healthy pregnancy (and healthy baby) with gestational diabetes. Here’s how to keep stress levels down to make those nine months a positive experience for both you and your upcoming kiddo.
Acknowledge the stress of pregnancy. Recognize that you may need to change your routine a little to manage your stress, instead of trying to “power through” the feelings. Give yourself time and space to cope. You deserve it. Here’s why managing your stress can help treat diabetes.
Prioritize healthy eating and daily physical activity. Exercise doesn’t have to mean a high-intensity boot camp or spin class; it could be as simple as going on a walk with a friend, coworker, partner, or furry companion. Try these tips for healthy eating with gestational diabetes and exercising to manage blood sugar.
Buddy up. Walking, chatting, or grabbing lunch with a friend is a great way to release stress. Friends can provide comfort and company, and meeting with other pregnant moms can be particularly helpful. If you don’t feel like you have someone to talk to, try joining a community or online group for moms. And forming a community of new-mom pals now may also help prevent feelings of postpartum depression after your baby arrives.
Make time for yourself. Seeking out company is important, but so is having “me time.” This is especially true if you already have a house full of little ones: It’s easy to slip into a mommy mindset and want to take care of everyone and everything—but don’t forget about you. “You also need a seperate time [to] recondition, breathe, decompress, [and] take care of yourself,” says Sandra Arévalo, RDN, a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Give yourself at least five to 15 minutes to do something you love that’s just for you, suggests Arévalo, whether it’s listening to music, doing artwork, or just meditating on your favorite hammock. Try these alternatives to traditional meditation if you need ideas.
Embrace your support team. “Gestational diabetes is a big diagnosis,” says Sonal Chaudhry, MD, an endocrinologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City. “It’s a real team approach.” Your family members, nutritionist, endocrinologist, and your ob-gyn are all there to work together and support the process.
Koning SM, Ehrenthal DB. Stressor landscapes, birth weight, and prematurity at the intersection of race and income: Elucidating birth contexts through patterned life events [published correction appears in SSM Popul Health. 2020 Dec 17;12:100709]. SSM Popul Health. 2019;8:100460. Published 2019 Jul 23.
Managing & treating gestational diabetes. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Accessed on January 9, 2022 at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/gestational/management-treatment.)
Moms’ mental health matters: depression and anxiety around pregnancy. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (Accessed on January 9, 2022 at https://www1.nichd.nih.gov/ncmhep/initiatives/moms-mental-health-matters/moms/Pages/default.aspx.)
Schetter CD, Tanner L. Anxiety, depression and stress in pregnancy: implications for mothers, children, research, and practice. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2012 Mar;25(2):141-8. Stress and pregnancy. White Plains, NY: March of Dimes. (Accessed on January 9, 2022 at https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/stress-and-pregnancy.aspx.)
Symptoms and causes of gestational diabetes. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Accessed on January 9, 2022 at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/gestational/symptoms-causes.)