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!)