The pancreas is an important organ in our bodies that produces insulin when we eat food, especially foods that contain carbohydrates (e.g. bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits, sweets). Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars, which are used for energy. It is important to avoid eating processed foods high in sugar, salt, and additives and to choose real foods (e.g. whole vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, meats, whole grains) since they provide important nutrition that is necessary for both your health and the health of your baby. When sugars are released from food into our blood, our pancreas works to make just the right amount of insulin. If your pregnancy hormones are high, your pancreas may not make enough insulin and blood sugars will be high.
Insulin acts like a key that unlocks the door to allow sugar to move from our bloodstream into our muscles and organs where it is used for energy or stored for later use. All forms of diabetes result from blood sugar levels that are too high.
You can help your pancreas by eating nutritious foods and partaking in physical activity (e.g. walking 15-30 minutes after a meal), if your health care team feels that exercise is safe for you. Some conditions prevent moms from getting exercise and you should always listen to your obstetrical team if they ask you to reduce your physical activity levels. If you can’t get your blood sugar into the right range with healthy eating and exercise, then medications such as insulin may be added to help. You can find out more about healthy eating and how to control your blood sugar levels in your gestational diabetes class or from your health care provider.