Gestational Diabetes: Blood testing and exercise

Gestational diabetes

If you’ve made it this far well done! I know my previous posts have been long but I wanted to make sure I put everything down that helped me.

Going through gestation diabetes, whilst not as problematic as other pregnancy related illnesses still had a profound effect on me physically and mentally. If I can help any other mum-to-be out there by what I learned then the long posts are a good thing.

Anyway on with the ramble! Again I’ve broken the post down into sections:

  • Testing Tips
  • Dawn Effect
  • Exercise

So as a huge part of having gestational diabetes is testing your blood sugars. This is pretty simple and uses a kit similar to the one pictured below. I tested my blood sugars at first six times a day, so that was before and after each main meal. At around 8 months I went down to four times a day as my sugars were pretty stable.

A needle and blood sugar monitor
The needle and monitor used to test blood sugar

Top tips for testing:

  • Always make sure you have clean hands! I didn’t do this once and I’d passed a slice of cake to someone and then freaked out when my blood sugars were over 9 considering I’d had something like a lettuce leaf! So always wash your hands prior to testing.
  • Swap your fingers. Some like to do a different finger each test, me personally I kept the same finger for a day and then moved on.
  • Make sure you aren’t dehydrated this will affect the reading – drink lots of water!
  • If you do a test and the reading is high and you think it shouldn’t be e.g. you’ve had low carbs etc. , go wash your hands, have a drink and leave it a minute or two, then re-test.
  • Try not to test if you are stressed. Stress does effect your sugars.
  • Be aware of the Dawn Effect (see below)

Dawn effect

When I was testing because I was getting up at 6am I found that my pre-breakfast blood sugars at times were pretty high and I couldn’t figure out why. I’d had a low carbohydrate meal the evening before and usually nothing after it.

So a trusty google (seriously what did we do before the internet?) and I came across the Dawn Effect.

The Dawn Effect is the term given to increase of blood sugars in the morning. It is caused by a release of hormones which tells the liver to release a load of glucose (sugar). It is basically your body kick starting for the day.

Ways of controlling this is making sure you don’t have too many carbohydrates in the evening and trying to eat a protein and a good fat.

If you are having continuous pre-breakfast readings you must get in touch with your diabetic nurse.


Being active through your pregnancy is so important whether you have gestational diabetes or not.

There are so many positives in terms of release of happy hormones, stronger muscles but also it can help make labour easier!

If you have gestational diabetes it is even more crucial to be active.

I’m not talking about working out until you can’t stand after all you are growing a human, but some gentle exercise is really what the doctor ordered! Again if you have other conditions related to your pregnancy speak with your midwife before doing anything.

In my first two trimesters I did less walking and more cardio. I found some great videos on YouTube. My go to was a 20 minutes cardio with Amy. You can get it here, I especially liked it because she was pregnant as well.

I also carried on doing my yoga. I followed Tonic as they had multiple episodes. You can access those videos here.

As I entered my third trimester due to the diabetes I had to increase my exercise to three sessions of 30 minutes to be taken after my meals. Now because I had just eaten I didn’t want to be doing a moderate workout so I walked. Seriously I must have walked hundreds of miles.

I was also lucky in that we had randomly decided to buy a crossfit trainer during my early pregnancy so when it was raining or during the summer when it was too hot I would go on that.

It was a life saver.

I did my exercise everyday, even the day of her birth (why I’m still annoyed they wouldn’t let me walk during my labour so would have helped) and whilst annoying in the sense I knew I couldn’t relax after a meal, it was a good way of de-stressing.

In terms of exercising when pregnant keep in mind the following points:

  • always warm up before exercising, and cool down afterwards
  • try to keep active on a daily basis: half an hour of walking each day can be enough, but if you can’t manage that, any amount is better than nothing
  • avoid any strenuous exercise in hot weather
  • drink plenty of water and other fluids
  • you should raise your heart rate a little but not so much that you’re out of breath. General guideline is you should be able to still have a conversation
  • don’t lie flat on your back for prolonged periods, particularly after 16 weeks, because the weight of your bump presses on the main blood vessel bringing blood back to your heart and this can make you feel faint
  • use your common sense, exercise sports where there is a risk of falling, being tackled, at heights etc. should all be avoided

I worked out 15-20 minutes after I had eaten my main meals. This timeframe was used because it takes 15-30 minutes for the sugars to enter your blood stream. So by timing my workouts like this I was able to ‘burn off’ some of the sugars, therefore keeping my sugars low.

This did not mean I could load up on carbohydrates and sugar and then burn them off, the exercise intensity would not do that. This was a way of ensuring that a healthy amount of carbohydrates wouldn’t cause a spike.

It is essential to remember that with gestational diabetes your body is struggling to make insulin so it is finding it hard to process just normal amounts of carbohydrates or in my case very small amounts.

I also carried on with my yoga and I bought an exercise ball to bounce around on. These were more stress releasing activities but I completely recommend them.

I’d be interested to know what exercise you did during pregnancy diabetic or not. Did you find it helped with your labour?

The pen is mightier than the sword, why not say something

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