At some point during the 40 weeks of a pregnancy, you probably won't feel like yourself owing to your changing body, fluctuating hormones or sense of excitement and nervousness about the impending arrival. If those strange feelings translate to dizziness or faintness, however, it's a sign that your blood sugar is low. This condition is particularly problematic for women with gestational diabetes, a form of the disease that manifests only during pregnancy.
Causes and Signs of Low Blood Sugar
A pregnant woman -- whether or not she’s been diagnosed with gestational diabetes – can experience low blood sugar, also known as low blood glucose, if she skips or delays a meal or snack. Other causes include eating too little, exercising more than usual or, for those with diabetes, taking too much insulin. You’ll feel the effect of these choices through symptoms such as a headache, dizziness, drowsiness, cold sweats, difficulty concentrating, a pounding heart, irritability or extreme hunger.
Foods to Boost Blood Sugar
If you experience symptoms of low blood sugar, take a moment to eat a meal or snack. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest reaching for a source of quick sugar, such as a piece of hard candy, fruit juice, skim milk or non-diet soft drink. If you're diabetic, aim specifically to eat 15 grams of fast-acting carbs, recommends the Sutter Health Network. You can consume this amount in 1/2 cup of fruit juice, 1/3 cup of sugared gelatin, 1 tablespoon of honey or jam, 1/2 cup of regular soda or 1 cup of fat-free milk. When you begin to feel better, the CDC recommends eating a protein-rich snack such as cheese and crackers or half a peanut butter sandwich.
According to MedlinePlus, preventing low blood sugar is easier than treating it. Therefore, you should always carry snacks with you to prevent yourself from getting too hungry. Pick options that are rich in the nutrients you need during pregnancy, such as protein, calcium, iron and folate. The pregnancy website What to Expect recommends single servings of yogurt or cottage cheese, string cheese, granola bars, fresh fruits or individual servings of vegetable juice or milk.
Effects of Low Blood Sugar
Pregnancy changes the way your body processes sugar, says Dr. Elizabeth Pryor on Parents.com, making low blood sugar more common. In some pregnant women, the feeling of faintness passes after eating, and they're no worse for the wear. If you have gestational diabetes, however, the consequences of mismanaging your blood sugar can be more severe. Very low blood glucose levels can be life-threatening. If you experience low blood sugar levels frequently, speak to your obstetrician about how to manage your condition better.
- Sutter Health: Diabetes in Pregnancy: Low Blood Sugar
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Diabetes and Pregnancy
- Parents: Low Blood Sugar During Pregnancy
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Diabetes and Pregnancy
- What to Expect: Healthy Snacks During Pregnancy
- MedlinePlus: Diabetes -- Low Blood Sugar -- Self-Care