Nutrition Before, During, and After Pregnancy

Diabetes; nutrition for breastfeeding

Pregnancy and Diabetes
Gestational diabetes occurs in approximately 4 percent of all pregnancies. Gestational diabetes is distinguished by an elevated glucose, or blood sugar level, during pregnancy. Women are routinely tested between the twenty-fourth and twenty-eighth weeks of pregnancy to make sure they are not showing symptoms of gestational diabetes. The risk is usually higher for women who have a family history of diabetes, who are overweight, or who have had problem pregnancies in the past. Gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Women who have known diabetes before pregnancy are not diagnosed as having gestational diabetes. This type of diabetes disappears in 90 percent of women after giving birth.

ALERT! Women who experience gestational diabetes are at an increased risk, as much as 60 percent, for developing Type 2 diabetes later. Women can decrease their risk by maintaining a healthy weight after their pregnancy.

The nutritional goals for women with gestational diabetes are to provide adequate calories, optimal nutrition, and normalized blood sugar levels. Monitoring blood sugar on a regular basis is essential to knowing if normal blood sugar levels are being achieved. Guidelines for treating this type of diabetes vary and are very individualized, but one constant recommendation is limiting carbohydrate intake at breakfast. Most women with gestational diabetes cannot tolerate large amounts of carbohydrates in the morning, but are generally able to tolerate them later in the day. Foods high in total amounts of carbohydrate are also limited. Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day, as well as getting regular exercise, can also help to normalize blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor and/or a dietitian should work with you closely to help you develop a meal and lifestyle plan that will help you to control your blood sugar levels.

For Women Who Breastfeed
If you are breastfeeding, good nutrition after giving birth is as important as ever. The fuel supply that helps produce your breast milk comes from energy stored as body fat during your pregnancy and from extra energy from food choices. Your body uses about 100 to 150 additional calories per day to produce breast milk. While breastfeeding, a woman needs an additional 500 calories per day, beyond nonpregnancy maintenance needs. In other words, if you needed 2,000 calories to maintain your weight before pregnancy, you need 2,700 calories per day while you are breastfeeding. Trying to lose weight through a strict weight-loss regimen is not recommended while you are breastfeeding. If your caloric intake goes lower than 1,800 calories, you probably will not get enough of all the nutrients your body needs for proper breastfeeding.

As in pregnancy, the need for most nutrients increases while breastfeeding. It is important to pay extra close attention to your protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, folate, and vitamin B6 intake. If your nutrient intake is low, you can still produce breast milk sufficient enough to support your baby's health, but only at the expense of your own body's nutrient reserves. Also remember your fluid intake during this time: continue to get at least 8 to 12 cups of fluids daily, and more if you are thirsty.

Alcohol can pass into breast milk, so it is not advised during breastfeeding. It is also advised that you not smoke. Nicotine does pass into breast milk. It can reduce your milk supply and increase your baby's risk for developing colic or a sinus infection. If you do smoke, avoid smoking for two and a half hours before nursing, and never smoke around the baby. Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can be passed through breast milk. It is advised to consult your physician before taking any type of medication when breastfeeding.

excerpted from:

Copyright © 2002 by Kimberly A. Tessmer. Excerpted from The Everything Nutrition Book: Boost Energy, Prevent Illness, and Live Longer with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

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