Hypoglycemia, known as low blood sugar, is common during pregnancy because hormones affect how a woman’s body processes glucose (sugar). When you become too hungry, and your blood sugar dips below 70 mg/dL, you can become weak, shaky, dizzy, cranky and/or anxious. You also may get a headache, and your heart may feel like it’s beating too fast.
For most women, low blood sugar is easy to avoid. Here are 3 things to remember:
- Drink plenty of water. Doctors recommend at least 8-10 glasses a day. Dehydration can cause similar symptoms.
- Eat often. You should eat small meals and snacks every 3-4 hours, aiming for 4-5 smaller meals or three meals and three snacks a day. Pack healthy snacks in your purse, desk or car so you always have something handy and make sure you have a bedtime snack so low blood sugar doesn’t affect your sleep.
- Avoid sugary carbs. Sugary carbohydrates cause dramatic spikes and drops in blood sugar. Choose high-fiber carbs because they will keep your blood sugar from rising too fast and help you feel full longer.
Dieticians recommend that pregnant women include a combination of high-fiber carbs, fat and protein at each meal or snack. Good choices include whole-grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, beans, and peas, and nuts. You should also include plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables.
If you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of hypoglycemia, eat or drink a source of quick sugar, such as a piece of hard candy or 4 ounces of fruit juice or soft drink (not diet). If you don’t feel better in 15 minutes, do it again. When you feel better, have a protein snack such as a peanut butter sandwich or cheese and crackers.
It is important to partner with your doctor to keep your blood sugar under control and prevent problems or catch them early. If you have diabetes or have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, it’s especially important that you talk with your doctor before you get pregnant — you may need to monitor your blood sugar more closely than others. Problems with diabetes can cause serious problems for both the mother and her unborn baby.