The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) reported that every year, 2 to 10% of all pregnancies in the United States are affected by gestational diabetes (GDM).
The advances in clinical care could reduce the risks to you and your baby from GDM if appropriately managed. However, prevention plays a crucial role in the management. Prevention is most important for women who have had GDM in a previous pregnancy. Or those with some of the risk factors of the condition.
This article highlights risk factors for gestational diabetes and explains practical steps to avoid it.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is a condition where an increased blood glucose level is first recognized in the current pregnancy. It is often diagnosed between the 24th to 28th weeks of pregnancy. It is when a woman is diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy and has never had it before.
Most women with gestational diabetes give birth to healthy babies. However, some babies could have complications like macrosomia (large baby), jaundice, poor breathing, and low blood glucose level at birth. Also, the mother could have an early delivery or need a Caesarean section for delivery.
After pregnancy, the condition often resolves. But 50% may develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Risk factors for Gestational Diabetes
Any woman of childbearing age can develop GDM. The following risk factors could further increase your chances of developing gestational diabetes:
- Being overweight or obese
- Physical inactivity
- Previous history of gestational diabetes
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Previous history of delivery of a baby who weighs more than 4.1kg (9 pounds)
- Race or ethnicity includes African American, American Indian, American Asian, and Hispanic.
- A closely related family member with diabetes
- Over 25years of age
- Certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels
How Can You Lower Your Risk Of Gestational Diabetes
Pre conceptual counseling
The best way to reduce your chances of gestational diabetes is to prepare your body for pregnancy. How better to do this than talk to experts dedicated to this particular role?
Pre-conceptual care is the care offered to men and women before pregnancy. In the appointment, you and your doctor plan for your future pregnancy. Your family history, medical history, risk factors, and lifestyle are all discussed.
If you are overweight, your doctor could recommend weight loss goals. He can advise you to be more physically active to better prepare if you are inactive.
If you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), your doctor might prescribe metformin. This is because women with PCOS have a high rate of gestational diabetes. And the drug has been shown to reduce the rate by ten folds.
Maintain A Healthy Body Weight:
If you are overweight and thinking about becoming pregnant, getting in shape reduces your risk of gestational diabetes. This can improve how your body uses insulin, which helps your blood sugar levels to stay within a healthy range.
A study by Susan Y. Chu of the CDC published in the Diabetes Care journal compared maternal obesity and the risk of GDM. She found that being overweight doubles the risk of gestational diabetes. Obese women have a 4-fold increase in risk, while severely obese women have an 8 times likelihood of developing GDM.
It is, therefore, important to lose weight and maintain that healthy weight before getting pregnant. Once you are pregnant, you cannot try to lose weight. You need to add a few pounds to keep your baby healthy. This does not mean letting your body go totally. Your doctor will advise you on how much weight you need to gain.
Increase Your Physical Activity
Physical activity with Diabetic sock helps prevent gestational diabetes by improving your body’s handling of glucose. It also prevents insulin resistance and pre-pregnancy obesity, important stepping stones to GDM.
A study in the Obstet Gynecol journal found that physical activity reduces the risk of abnormal glucose tolerance and GDM. The researchers recommend vigorous activity before pregnancy and at least light-to-moderate activity during pregnancy.
Less vigorous activities like brisk walking, swimming, yoga, and low-impact aerobics are great choices when pregnant. Diabetes assistants apps like Klinio will provide personalized exercise choices for you.
Eat A Balanced Diet During Pregnancy
A diet rich in whole grains, non-starchy meals, and vegetables can help lower your risk of gestational diabetes. These foods contain lots of fiber. During digestion, the glucose in them is slowly absorbed to prevent a spike in your blood sugar levels.
Morning sickness, food aversions, and cravings can make it challenging to eat a nutritious diet during pregnancy. However, eating well can ensure you only gain a healthy amount of weight during your pregnancy. This helps prevent gestational diabetes.
Here are some healthy foods choices to choose from:
- lean proteins like fish, beans, and tofu
- whole grains like brown rice, brown pasta, and oatmeal
- low-fat dairy
- non-starchy vegetables
You should avoid processed foods, sugary beverages like sodas, energy drinks, juice boxes, and other sugary foods.
Attend routine care appointments
The World Health Organization recommends that pregnant women go for at least 8 prenatal care visits. These routine visits are important to ask about the pregnancy and new symptoms. You should endeavor to attend all your prenatal appointments.
Your doctor might recognize early signs of gestational diabetes and suggest ways to prevent it. You will also have a gestational diabetes screening between 24 and 28 weeks. This screening is important to catch the diagnosis early.
Obesity, lack of physical activity, and family history are strong risk factors for gestational diabetes. Preparing your body for pregnancy can help prevent this. Eating a healthy diet and engaging in moderate pregnancy activities also help prevent GDM. Klinio offers a personalized meal plan and easy-to-follow moderate exercises to help you lead a healthy pregnancy.