It seems to be fairly common knowledge:
If you have gestational diabetes, you have to change your diet, exercise more and possibly take medication for the duration of your pregnancy.
Diet and exercise are critical to keeping your sugar levels in check (though what that diet exactly is still varies). And for some women, being on medication really is what's best for mom and baby's health.
But this traditional treatment plan is missing a key piece of the puzzle: Stress management.
Treating gestational diabetes without including stress management as part of the action plan is like trying to drive a car that has only 3 tires. (Tweet that!)
Here's What We Know About Stress and Our Bodies
We all have different stress triggers. What may be stressful to you, may not be stressful to your best friend or the stranger across the street.
But for each and every one of us, emotional stress and our physical health and inextricably linked.
Acute and chronic stress
Raises our blood pressure
Suppresses our immunity
Causes fatigue and weight gain
Increases inflammation in the body
When we're stressed, our body goes into fight or flight mode.
This means our body creates a surge of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) in preparation for addressing the stress trigger.
These hormones are the reason we breath faster, our heart races and our palms sweat when we're anxious.
These stress hormones also flood the body with glucose to prepare you for you for the fight or flight reaction, which you can see is not good in the long or short run especially if you already have diabetes!
Stress and Gestational Diabetes
There is significant literature that shows a positive correlation between stress and glucose levels in men and non-pregnant women.
Now, there is research pointing to a similar connection betwen stress and the development of gestational diabetes.
Specifically, moms who experience an increase in their stress levels from early to mid pregnancy have 2.6 fold increased odds of developing gestational diabetes. (Source: Diabetes Metab. 2014)
Once diagnosed, many moms struggle with three major concerns:
feeling stressed because they have gestational diabetes and thus a high-risk pregnancy
feeling helpless and they have or will lose control of their gestational diabetes when they're trying to manage it with diet
feeling anxious and afraid about what gestational diabetes means for mom's health and baby's health.
With so many different sources of stress for moms with gestational diabetes, and how profoundly stress impacts mom and baby during pregnancy, it's imperative that stress management be part of the treatment plan.
The authors of this study go on to explain the importance of stress management:
"While more tailored education might decrease dietary management stress, other emotional distress that women had less control over — such as stress related to diagnosis of high-risk pregnancy and the fear of complications — should not be neglected. Methods to reduce existing stress and anxiety in a short-term period may improve the quality of mental health."
The thing is, stress isn't the only problem.
Stress is a tremendous risk factor for developing depression during pregnancy. (Tweet that!)
This has a significant impact on how well you adhere to your diet and exercise routine laid out by your medical care team.
And moms who experience depression or anxiety during pregnancy are at high risk for developing postpartum depression and anxiety, which impacts her ability to bond with and care for her baby as well as herself.
The Short and Sweet
Moms with gestational diabetes experience high levels of stress and anxiety, which can negatively impact how well moms adhere to diet and exercise routines necessary to manage gestational diabtes.
In addition, feeling stress and anxiety during pregnancy increases your risk for developing depression during pregnancy and experiencing postpartum depression and anxiety after birth.
If you're diagnosed with gestational diabetes, make sure you have a good (and complete!) care team in place. (Tweet that!)
an OB or perinatologist to medically manage your gestational diabetes
a dietitian or nutritionist to help you maintain a healthy diet (check out one of my favorites)
and emotional support to help you cope with the stress and anxiety of having gestational diabetes. (Here's a fast and free way to start.)
You can get through your pregnancy with gestational diabetes with more hope and more happiness.
If you'd like ideas on how to manage your stress better, download the free Perinatal Wellness Toolbox to access tips on how to lower your stress and anxiety.
And join the Community of Hope where you can get free coaching from me for personalized tips on how to lower your stress right away.
Do you struggle with stress and anxiety since you were diagnosed with gestational diabetes? How do you try to keep your stress low?
Leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you!
A high-risk pregnancy complicated by gestational diabetes can be overwhelming. Just take it one day, one step at a time. You can do this.