So, you just screamed with excitement when you saw the 2 pink lines on your pregnancy test — or maybe you didn’t if you weren’t planning on it. Either way, you are most likely reading this because you’re pregnant with diabetes and you’re wondering how the heck you’re going to start or maintain an exercise routine during this journey, or you simply have an interest in diabetes and pregnancy.
Being pregnant with diabetes can be really, really scary. Trust me, I’m in the thick of it right now in the third trimester, and although it’s awesome and exciting, the experience can be nerve-wracking at the same time.
We all know that exercise is a crucial part of our diabetes management, and during pregnancy, I’ve found it especially helpful to maintain what I’ve already been doing with just a few modifications.
Below are a few of the things I kept in my exercise routine and, of course, reviewed with my healthcare team (both OB and endo) to make sure the baby and I were on target.
I can’t recommend simply walking enough. Even if you can only squeeze in a 15-minute walk at lunch or after a meal, I’ve found it extremely helpful to avoid the post-meal spikes (which the ADA recommends keeping below 130 mg/dl during pregnancy).
I’ve been doing CrossFit for a few years now, and I really enjoy the heavy lifting/cardio combo because the adrenaline from the weights plus the cardio reduces the need for major reductions or increases in insulin (at least for me). I’m certainly not lifting 200 pounds anymore, but most weight-bearing activities are safe and encouraged by physicians during pregnancy if you were already doing them prior to getting pregnant.
Plan, plan and plan! If you know you’re going to a kickboxing class, or spinning, or even just for a walk, plan ahead! If you have a pump, great — revisit those temp basal settings (I need to adjust my basal rate an hour in advance to see an effect and prevent a low for most cardio workouts). Also, always have plenty of snacks on hand to treat lows!
Speaking of lows, we know it can be SO hard to not over-treat low blood sugars (Hello, 2am fridge raid), but in pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, the lows can be frequent. Try not to over-treat. I need just one glucose tab to keep me in the recommended 70-110 mg/dl range.
Morning workouts work out best for me — I’ve found that the less insulin on board from a meal or snack, the better. In the morning, there are fewer variables you have to work with going into a workout (unless you’re now riding that 2am fridge raid rollercoaster), so I often have fewer swings in BGs. Many of you are probably thinking, ”Yeah right, I’m exhausted already from being pregnant, why would I get up at 5am to work out?” but trust me, the fewer variables you have on board with pregnancy and blood sugars, the better.
Moving right along to variables — I’m also one of those low carb people and have found that if you have less insulin on board from eating fewer carbs, it reduces the likelihood of exercise-induced lows. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever eat a cookie or chocolate again (let’s be real), but I strive to eat simply cooked veggies and meat for dinner to help smooth out that graph on my CGM in time for bed. Some of the snacks I like are almonds and string cheese. Yum!
Yes, it’s a LOT Of work, but I feel better when I exercise (even stretching with a foam roller or a yoga mat at home can help) and I highly recommend that you do something active for you, your baby, and your body.
Do what works for you, whether it’s a walk on the beach, continuing to lift weights, or something else.
Listen to your body (and your doctor) and have fun!
Suggested next post: Fitness, Pregnancy, and Diabetes – A Diabetic Fitness Champion’s Story
Anna Floreen is the Education and Outreach Manager at the T1D Exchange and is passionate about providing the online type 1 diabetes community with resources and ongoing connectivity through the MyGlu.org website and forum.
Anna received her Master of Social Work degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2009 and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Child and Family Studies from Syracuse University. Anna also serves as a faculty member for the IDF’s Young Leaders Program. She is a Certified Product Trainer with Medtronic Diabetes and assists as a volunteer mentor with AYUDA (American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad) where she has traveled to both Belize and Bermuda aiding in the production of diabetes camps and programs.
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