Blood sugar, or blood glucose, is the main sugar in your bloodstream. It is also the main energy source for the cells of your body.
Fasting blood sugar levels are closely monitored among those with gestational diabetes mellitus. Sometimes, these levels can be too high and lead to serious pregnancy complications.
Thankfully, there are some effective ways to help lower fasting blood sugar levels for those looking to manage gestational diabetes.
What Is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar, also known as glucose, is an important fuel source for the body. It provides nutrients and energy for the body’s muscles, organs, and nervous system.
Our bodies produce glucose from the foods we eat, namely carbohydrates. Glucose is the primary result of the breakdown of carbohydrates by the digestive and endocrine systems.
Insulin Regulates Blood Sugar
When glucose enters the bloodstream, it is pushed into the cells by a hormone known as insulin. This naturally occurring hormone is produced by beta cells in the pancreas.
Excess blood sugar causes an increase in insulin production, and excess glucose gets stored in the liver as glycogen. Issues with this endocrine feedback loop system can cause metabolic issues like diabetes.
What Is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is also known as impaired insulin sensitivity. In short, the body builds a tolerance to insulin and cannot use it effectively. The result is high blood sugar.
When higher than normal blood sugar enters and remains, it is known as hyperglycemia. Sustained high blood sugar levels can be damaging to the body over time.
Weight gain is one consequence. When excess blood sugar cannot be stored in the liver, it becomes body fat.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are consistently high during pregnancy. Hormonal changes, like placenta hormone production, are thought to be one culprit behind the many that can contribute to the development of gestational diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends the following target blood glucose levels during pregnancy:
- Blood glucose levels before a meal – 95 mg/dL or less
- Blood glucose levels one hour after a meal – 140 mg/dL or less
- Blood glucose levels two hours after a meal – 120 mg/dL or less
How Do You Screen for Gestational Diabetes?
Prenatal care visits will likely screen for gestational diabetes in later trimesters since it typically develops around 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, if gestational diabetes is suspected, blood glucose monitoring will likely be done during most follow-up visits with your health care provider.
One way to screen for gestational diabetes is with a glucose screening test. For this test, women will drink a glucose solution on a fasted stomach. After an hour or two, blood samples will be drawn to check for blood sugar levels in the body.
A blood sugar level lower than 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) is within normal range. If results are higher, the next likely step is an oral glucose tolerance test, where blood sugar is monitored before and after drinking a sugary solution.
A blood sugar level of 190 mg/dL (10.6 mmol/L) is considered gestational diabetes.
Other Types of Diabetes Testing
There are several other common tests for diabetes, including the following.
Another type of blood glucose testing is an HbA1C or A1C test. These measures average blood glucose levels over a two to three-month period. It is measured as a percentage, with 5.7% or less considered normal.
Fasting Blood Sugar Testing
Another glucose screening test is the fasting blood sugar test. This is typically done in the early morning as it measures blood sugar levels after an overnight fast — eight to 12 hours.
You can only consume water during this fast. This is one of the most common ways to test for prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.
A blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL or less is considered normal. A fasting blood sugar level of 126 mg/dL or higher can indicate diabetes.
Why Is Fasting Blood Sugar Important?
Fasting blood sugar levels help give healthcare professionals clues on how the body manages blood sugar and uses insulin. These levels tend to be highest an hour after we eat.
In the case of gestational diabetes, a high fasting blood sugar level can indicate insulin resistance. Consistently high fasting blood sugar levels during pregnancy can cause serious complications for the mother and the baby.
For example, it can exacerbate symptoms like high blood pressure, leading to a condition known as preeclampsia. Also, it puts pregnant women at high risk for preterm delivery.
Other pregnancy complications related to gestational diabetes can include:
- Postpartum type 2 diabetes
- Delivering a larger-than-average baby (infant macrosomia)
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in infants at birth
- A higher risk of cesarean delivery (C-section)
How Can I Lower My Fasting Blood Sugar?
Lowering your fasting blood sugar can help avoid unnecessary pregnancy complications that accompany metabolic disorders, including increased risk for weight gain.
While medications like metformin are sometimes required, simple lifestyle changes can help. However, it is important to consult your obstetrics care provider before making any drastic lifestyle changes during pregnancy.
Adjust Your Diet
Most diabetes care programs have a healthy diet at the forefront. Lowering fasting blood sugar levels starts in the kitchen. A balanced diet can help drive down fasting glucose numbers and help with weight loss.
For example, complex carbs with high dietary fiber take longer to break down and digest. This has less of an impact on blood sugar as it causes a steady release of glucose. This includes whole grains, like oats and brown rice.
For those looking to lower fasting glucose levels, try and avoid:
- Processed foods (refined carbs)
- Artificial sweeteners
- Foods with added sugar (sodas, juices, etc.)
If you have questions about nutrition or meal plans, ask your doctor to get you in touch with a dietician who can coach you on healthy eating habits.
Spread Your Meals Out Throughout the Day
Big meals can cause blood sugar to spike and your digestive tract to work overtime. Instead of eating large amounts of food at once, eat smaller servings more often.
It is better to spread meals throughout the day into five or six smaller meals. This will help keep fasting blood sugar levels in a normal range.
Don’t Forget To Drink Water
Hydration is extremely important when it comes to regulating blood sugar. When you’re dehydrated, your body cannot process sugars as effectively.
Regarding fasting blood sugar levels, water can help flush out existing sugars throughout the day. Pregnant women should aim for eight to 12 cups of water a day.
Grab High Protein Snacks at Bedtime
If the pregnancy cravings are too much to handle at bedtime, grab a high-protein snack and avoid snacks high in carbohydrates.
High carbs foods will raise blood sugar levels throughout the night and can cause you to wake up with higher than normal fasting blood sugar levels. These snacks could include low-fat cheeses, peanut butter, or nuts.
Get Daily Exercise
Your muscles require glucose to function properly. When you exercise and work out, your body naturally demands more and more glucose. This demand could help drive down fasting blood sugar levels.
Exercise doesn’t have to be intense. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate, low-impact aerobic exercise at least five days a week. Physical activity can include walking, swimming, stretching, yoga, or simply playing with the kids.
The Bottom Line
Gestational diabetes is a type of metabolic condition that affects the mother and baby during pregnancy. This can disrupt a healthy pregnancy as it interferes with managing blood sugar levels.
High fasting blood sugar levels are common with gestational diabetes. Thankfully, there are many ways to help lower fasting blood sugar.
These include healthy lifestyle changes. But, before changing your diet or starting any exercise plan, consult your OB/GYN or health care provider.
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Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Camille Freking and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera.
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