Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, occurs during pregnancy because hormones can affect how your body processes glucose. You'll also be using more energy -- growing a baby can be hard work -- so you may need to adjust your eating habits. Although you might not need more calories, you'll want to make nutrient-dense food choices that give you and your baby the essential vitamins and minerals you both need to thrive. Hypoglycemia isn't a threat to your baby, but can cause shakiness, dizziness and headaches for you. Fortunately, it's easy to avoid low blood sugar.
Eat every three to four hours. Waiting too long between meals can lead to low blood sugar. Plan your day to include three meals and three snacks, especially a bedtime snack, as low blood sugar can cause a bad night's sleep. Stashing snacks in your purse, car and desk will make it easier for you to have healthy choices on hand when you start to feel hungry. Waiting to eat will make your symptoms worse, as glucose levels continue to drop.
Choose high-fiber carbohydrates that will help keep you feeling full. Carbohydrates raise your glucose levels -- and sugary carbs can quickly spike your blood sugar. These spikes are often followed by dramatic drops, which can cause a craving for more carbs, as hypoglycemia sets in. Fiber slows the conversion of food into glucose and will stop your blood sugar from rising too quickly. Keeping your glucose levels stable will prevent low blood sugar.
Eat a combination of complex carbohydrates, fat and protein every time you eat. Whether it's a meal or a snack, you'll want to include lean protein and healthy fat every time you eat. Never eat carbohydrates by themselves. Choose low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, plant protein such as legumes and nuts. Avoid saturated fats which can lead to an increase in cholesterol. Olive oil, nuts and avocados are good sources of heart-healthy fats. Protein and fat also slow digestion and help keep you full until your next meal.
Hunger is often the first sign of low blood sugar, so don't ignore your body's hunger pangs during pregnancy. Hypoglycemia can be especially bad during the first trimester as your body learns to adjust to hormonal changes and morning sickness may make eating difficult. Eating very small amounts -- up to eight or ten times a day -- will help keep your blood sugar levels up.
If you have chronic hypoglycemia, your doctor may recommend you check your blood sugar using a glucose monitor or you may need to take pure glucose tablets to help raise your blood sugar.