Gestational diabetes can affect your pregnancy, your delivery, and even your baby. Learn what puts a woman at risk and what you can do to decrease your odds.
About 15 percent of pregnant women worldwide will develop a type of diabetes called gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can affect your pregnancy, your delivery, and even your baby. The biggest risk is a large baby, bringing an increased chance of birth injuries and C-section. But a recent study also found that children born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop prediabetes themselves.
So what can you do to head off diabetes during your pregnancy—for your health and your baby’s?
Know the Gestational Diabetes Risks
Research has shown that the following factors contribute to the risk of developing gestational diabetes:
- Older age
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- Overweight going into the pregnancy
- Asian, African, American Indian, and Hispanic descent
If you have any of these risk factors, be sure to check with your doctor. He can work with you on a plan to lower your risk (incorporating the risk-cutting steps below) and a screening schedule.
4 Ways to Move Away From Gestational Diabetes
Even if you’re at an increased risk of gestational diabetes, there are lifestyle steps you can take to help prevent the condition.
1. Aim for a healthy weight. While it’s not recommended to lose weight during your pregnancy, if you’re still just thinking about becoming pregnant, now is the time to get to a healthy weight for you. Losing even a few pounds can have a big impact if you’re overweight. Check with your doctor for healthy goals.
2. Eat a healthful diet.Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit your fat intake to 30 percent of calories. Think high in fiber and low in fat and calories, and limit highly refined carbs (processed foods made from white flour and added sugars), including sweets. A good meal plan helps you avoid high and low blood glucose levels while providing the nutrients your baby needs to grow.
3. Check your portions It’s easy to eat for two while pregnant, but all you need for your best health and to support your baby’s growth and development is an additional 340 calories (the amount in three large apples) per day in the second trimester and an extra 450 in the third trimester.
4. Get moving. Exercise allows your body to burn off glucose—it’s a great way to keep your blood sugar in check. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise most, if not all, days of the week. Simple things—like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away to sneak in more walking—can make a difference.
Know that if, despite everything you do, you’re still diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor will recommend nutrition and exercise strategies to manage your blood sugar. She’ll also work with you to develop a smart monitoring schedule for you and your baby. Gestational diabetes can usually be controlled by diet and exercise, but if your body doesn’t respond, you may need insulin.
After delivery, your doctor will continue to monitor your blood sugar. In most cases, your blood sugar will return to a normal level and all you’ll need is a diabetes risk assessment at least every three years.