Diabetes Pregnancy

Understanding the Connection Between Low Blood Sugar and Pregnancy

low blood sugar during pregnancy

If you are pregnant and experiencing frequent lightheadedness, dizziness or even fatigue, chances are that you have contemplated whether or not your blood sugar levels are healthy.

Pregnant women can experience low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) during their pregnancy.

However, high blood sugar also referred to as hyperglycemia, is considered to be much more common.

According to WebMD, Low blood sugar during pregnancy is a common sign of a condition known as gestational diabetes and can result in an array of alarming symptoms.

Learn more about this condition as well as ways to reduce your symptoms below.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. The American Diabetes Association found that most women develop this condition around the 24th week of their pregnancy.

Fortunately, it is not a usually a long-term diagnosis nor does it signify the presence of diabetes prior to pregnancy, making it easy to treat and manage symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that up to 10 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes at some point.

While not very common, you should know the signs and symptoms in order to treat it effectively and avoid serious complications.

Blood sugar levels during pregnancy may fluctuate between high and low, making it difficult to diagnose gestational diabetes at first.

If you are only experiencing one or the other, you may not have the condition. To be safe, make an appointment with your primary care physician in order to get checked.

To learn more about gestational diabetes and how it can affect you and your baby’s well being, check out this video from the American Diabetes Association.

What Causes Low Blood Sugar Levels?

Low blood sugar can happen as a result of many different things. Most commonly, it is caused by not eating enough calories throughout the day to support your body’s activity levels and needs.

If you are currently taking insulin shots, this can also affect your body’s ability to maintain optimal blood sugar levels.

According to Healthline, a blood sugar reading that is less than 60 milligrams per deciliter is considered to signal hypoglycemia.

This condition is most commonly associated with women who had been diagnosed with diabetes prior to conceiving.

While the exact cause of hypoglycemia during pregnancy is still unknown, many healthcare professionals agree that it has to do with changes in the way your body processes sugar. This can result from increased hormone production and new nutritional needs.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Low blood sugar levels can cause many different symptoms. For starters, most women report feeling lightheaded, dizzy or even disorientated.

Some may also experience cold flashes, shakiness, and impaired gait. In some instances, unusual sweating may also occur spontaneously and for no apparent reason.

Some signs of low blood sugar can be challenging to connect to the condition as they may appear harmless or self-explanatory.

Dry lips and mouth is one such example. Women may also feel abnormal levels of thirst, even after drinking water.

Excessive hunger can also be apparent. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

How to Manage Low Blood Sugar Levels

If you believe that you are experiencing low blood sugar levels during pregnancy, one of the most critical steps you can take is to examine your current eating habits and make appropriate changes.

Traci C. Johnson, MD from WebMD, recommends that pregnant women consume at least 300 more calories per day.

However, the quality of your diet directly impacts you and your baby’s nutrition. Your calories should primarily come from healthy, whole food sources such as fruit, vegetables, and grain in addition to nuts and lean meats.

Avoid consuming processed as much as possible which offer little nutritional value.

Whether you are a frequent snacker or prefer to stick with three meals per day, you should consider eating more frequent and smaller meals to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

This technique ensures that your body is continuously fueled and can help you avoid unwanted symptoms.

Most dietitians recommend shooting for at least six mini meals and spreading them out every three hours for the best results.

Each meal should be compromised of a source of protein, carbohydrates, and fresh vegetables or fruit.

Example meals include the following:

  • Turkey sandwich with plenty of vegetable toppings on whole grain bread
  • Chicken wrap with lettuce and tomato
  • Whole grain pasta in tomato sauce with a side salad
  • Oatmeal topped with fresh fruit and nuts
  • Baked fish with a side of steamed vegetables

These meal ideas are perfectly balanced and will ensure proper vitamin and nutrient intake.

It is easy to consume too large of portions, so you may find it useful to measure your meals prior to eating them.

This way you can avoid consuming excessive calories and better manage your weight during pregnancy.

It is important to plan your meals out before you physically feel hunger panes. Failure to do so can result in low blood sugar and lead to uncomfortable symptoms.

If you are experiencing excessive hunger despite changing the frequency of your meals, be sure to snack on healthy and filling foods such as vegetables, nuts and whole grains which will not spike your blood sugar levels.

These options offer plenty of essential nutrients that your body needs during pregnancy.

Low blood sugar can be brought on by a lack of core nutrients such as iron, so be sure to pay close attention to your food choices.

You may also speak with your doctor about supplements that are safe to use during pregnancy to ensure that you get proper nutritional intake every day.

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can also help stabilize your blood sugar levels. Be sure to aim for at least eight glasses a day.

If you are having difficulties falling asleep or getting enough restful sleep each night, you may also experience fluctuations in blood sugar as a result.

If these problems are persistent, you may want to speak with your doctor in order to find a safe resolution before resorting to over the counter products such as sleeping aids.

Food cravings can be persistent during pregnancy due to fluctuating levels of hormones in the body.

However, giving in to these urges can affect your blood sugar. Many women report wanting sweet, rich or savory foods frequently, all of which should be limited during pregnancy.

You can fight against unhealthy cravings by eating a well-balanced diet and getting all of the nutrients your body needs to support you and your baby.

If you are experiencing serious or long-lasting food cravings, speak with your doctor immediately as this can be a sign of an underlying condition or serious nutritional deficiency.

Finally, lack of exercise can contribute to negative symptoms. Sitting for extended periods of time and not getting enough cardiovascular movement into each day can affect your blood sugar levels.

As a general rule of thumb, 30 minutes of moderate activity such as walking each day is necessary for optimal health.

If you do experience negative low blood sugar symptoms during pregnancy, the following tips can help them dissipate faster:

  • Immediately sit or lay down in a comfortable position
  • Pull over and rest for a few minutes if you are driving
  • Drink water immediately
  • Eat a healthy snack such as whole grain crackers
  • Keep nutritious snacks within reach at all times
  • Avoid fast or jerky movements
  • Notify a loved one of your symptoms
  • Avoid caffeine

Can Low Blood Sugar be Fatal?

While considered to be extremely rare, untreated low blood sugar can lead to fatality. Low blood sugar can cause dizziness, fatigue and even fainting spells.

This, in turn, can lead to an accidental fall or serious injury that can harm the mother and embryo or fetus she is carrying.

Seriously low blood sugar may also cause loss of consciousness completely and significant brain damage.

The only way to avoid these potential effects is to manage your blood sugar appropriately and seek help if you need it. Never ignore symptoms as they can lead to more serious complications later on.

Can Low Blood Sugar Levels Impact a Baby?

The health of your baby is your priority, so it is important to know how your blood sugar could affect him or her.

In some cases, a mother’s low blood sugar levels can lead to poor absorption of critical nutrients in an embryo or fetus.

However, your doctor will be able to check for this and help resolve the problem quickly with the use of supplements or lifestyle changes.

Three common conditions can also occur as a result of unhealthy blood sugar levels in the body that are left untreated.

They consist of the following:

Jaundice

Newborn jaundice is believed to occur as a result of excessive levels of bilirubin. This pigment can create a noticeable yellow hue in the skin and eyes.

The liver is responsible for breaking down bilirubin. In some cases, newborns livers are not yet established enough to accomplish this without assistance.

Fortunately, most cases of newborn jaundice resolve themselves within a month as the liver matures and becomes able to process the pigment.

However, jaundice can lead to serious conditions such as deafness and cerebral palsy.

This is why it is critical to have your newborn checked and maintain frequent check-ups.

Fetal Macrosomia

Macrosomia refers to an unusually large baby. A newborn may have this condition if they weigh more than eight pounds and 13 ounces, regardless of their gestational age.

While this condition does not pose significant long-term complications, it can affect the mother’s ability to have a vaginal delivery and may also result in injury to the baby.

Hypoglycemia

Controlling your own blood sugar levels is critical to preventing hypoglycemia in your newborn which can be passed down to newborns.

To reduce the risk of your baby developing it, do your best to lead a healthy lifestyle and consume frequent, small and well-balanced meals to maintain optimal blood sugar levels in your body.

Will Blood Sugar Levels Stabilize After Pregnancy?

Gestational diabetes and general low blood sugar typically resolve itself shortly after giving birth.

Many women report healthy levels in as little as a few levels after delivering a baby.

However, you should be prepared to wait some time for your body to stabilize and hormone levels to go back to normal before worrying too much about it.

In some cases, a woman may continue to experience low blood sugar for several weeks following giving birth.

If this is the case for you, stay calm. During this time, continue your healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices to aid the process of stabilizing your blood sugar.

Long lasting low blood sugar after pregnancy can contribute to the development of type two diabetes.

If you feel like your blood sugar levels are abnormal or if they have persisted for more than a month following childbirth, you should make an appointment with your physician to get tested for this disease.

Untreated diabetes can take a toll on your health and lead to serious health complications such as the following:

  • Nerve damage
  • Heart disease
  • Organ damage, especially to the kidneys and liver
  • Loss of vision
  • Hearing impairment and deafness
  • Skin problems such as excessive dryness and sores
  • Serious infections

Whether you are worried about low blood sugar during pregnancy or are already experiencing the symptoms of it, you can rest assured knowing that it is a common and highly manageable condition that does not pose any significant threat to your health or the health of your baby.

With simple changes to your lifestyle and diet, you can eliminate virtually all negative symptoms of low blood sugar quickly and prevent them from coming back.

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