Worldwide, about 15% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. If left untreated, it can affect your pregnancy, your delivery, and even your baby’s growth. The biggest risks are a baby that’s too large or small, increased chance of birth injuries, and C-section. A recent study also found that children born to mothers with gestational diabetes were more likely to develop prediabetes.
Gestational Diabetes: Know your risks
The following factors contribute to the risk of developing gestational diabetes:
- Older than 25
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- Overweight going into pregnancy
- Asian, African, American Indian, or Hispanic descent
If you have any of these risk factors, you’ll want to work with your doctor on a plan to lower your gestational diabetes risk. You might also want to maintain a screening schedule and incorporate some of these risk-cutting steps into your lifestyle to help avoid gestational diabetes.
4 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Gestational Diabetes
Even if you’re at an increased risk, there are lifestyle steps you can take to help avoid gestational diabetes. So, what can you do to head off diabetes during your pregnancy?
- Aim for a Healthy Weight It’s not recommended to lose weight during your pregnancy. But, if you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, now might be a good time to find your healthy weight. Losing even a few pounds can have a big impact if you’re overweight. Check with your doctor for healthy goals.
- Eat a Healthy Diet Including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and limiting your fat intake to 30% of your calories, can help you maintain normal blood sugar levels. Think high in fiber and low in fat and calories, like berries or broccoli. Limit highly refined carbs or processed foods made from white flour and added sugars. Yes, unfortunately, that includes sweets! A good meal plan helps you avoid high and low blood glucose levels while providing the nutrients your baby needs to grow.
- Be Mindful of Portions It’s easy to eat for two while pregnant. It’s also easy to pack on the pounds. But actually, all you need for your best health is an additional 340 calories a day in your second trimester and an extra 450 calories a day in your third trimester.
- Exercise Exercise is a great way to keep your blood sugar in check and burn off glucose. Simple things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away to sneak in more steps can make a difference. The recommendation is 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
Gestational Diabetes: What to Expect
Diagnosed with gestational diabetes? Don’t panic. Your doctor will recommend strategies to manage your blood sugar and work with you to monitor it. While gestational diabetes can usually be controlled by diet and exercise, you may need insulin if your body doesn’t respond.
The good news? After delivery, your doctor will continue to monitor your levels, and in most cases, your blood sugar will return to a normal level. Then, all you’ll need is a diabetes risk assessment every three years along with monitoring for gestational diabetes risks if you chose to get pregnant again.
Now you know what puts you at risk for gestational diabetes and how you can help avoid gestational diabetes. While it’s important to do what you can to lower your odds, try not to stress about what you can’t control. It’s also good to know what foods you should eat while pregnant, and what ones you should avoid.