Learning How to Avoid Gestational Diabetes can prevent a risky and difficult pregnancy
Biological changes during pregnancy can trigger a condition known as gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). This disorder is described as “impaired glucose tolerance” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The most recent Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) also indicate that as much as 9.2% of pregnant women experience this type of diabetes. Due to these high incidence rates, women are being much more proactive about learning how to avoid gestational diabetes. This is good news because with proper knowledge and care, a woman may be able to avoid gestational diabetes or sufficiently minimize the impact so that she can enjoy her pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby.
Contributors to Gestational Diabetes
Although research has not produced any conclusive reasons why some women develop GDM, cognizance of the risk factors enhance understanding of how to avoid gestational diabetes. Studies however indicate that the probability of developing gestational diabetes is higher if a woman has one or more of the following risk factors.
- High blood pressure.
- A parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes.
- Does not exercise on a regular basis.
- Have had a miscarriage or still-birth baby.
- Have had a baby weighing nine or more pounds.
- Have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes in another pregnancy.
- Have had one or more abnormal blood sugar tests results.
- Has a history of Polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Is 35 years of age or older at the time of conception.
- Is overweight/obese prior to getting pregnant or gain a significant amount of weight during pregnancy.
Studies indicate that during pregnancy the cells in a woman’s body becomes more resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance occurs when hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy block insulin and drive up blood glucose levels. This mechanism of action increase the amount of nutrients the baby receives. The body’s process for nourishing the fetus however, can cause abnormal levels of blood glucose which is one of the precursors for the development of gestational diabetes.
Signs of gestational diabetes during pregnancy are usually not detectible without a screening test. In rare cases, some women my experience increased thirst and urinary frequency. For this reason, gestational diabetes screenings are typically performed between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy in women who do not have any notable risk factors. However, for women with risk factors, it is recommended that screening test for GDM occur during initial prenatal visits.
How to Avoid Gestational Diabetes
- If you are planning to get pregnant, there are some important preparatory steps you can take prior to conception to avoid gestational diabetes such as:
- Having your blood sugar tested to identify your baseline blood sugar levels.
- Talking to your doctor about what type of exercise will be beneficial going into pregnancy based on the current status of your health.
- Begin to make healthier dietary choices that will reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.
- Making an effort to lose any excess weight.
- Whether you are just planning to get pregnant or have already conceived, it is important to find out if you have any risk factors for gestational diabetes. Share this information with your doctor if you do. Whether you are at risk or not, discuss how you can avoid gestational diabetes or how best to manage it in the event that you develop it midway through your pregnancy.
- Work with your medical team to create a general pregnancy plan to help you to prepare for the road ahead. This may include making dietary changes prior to getting pregnant or creating a specific diet for gestational diabetes.
- Endeavor to eat a balanced and healthy diet for the duration of your pregnancy. This is important in order to maintain consistency in blood sugar levels even if you are not at risk of gestational diabetes. It is just as important to learn what to avoid as what to include in your diet. Keep in mind that fiber is essential for diabetes management. And, although some fresh fruit may have a lower glycemic count than processed sugar and flour, fruits and vegetables with high sugar content should be consumed in moderation.
- Consistently monitor blood sugar levels and make adjustment to your diet accordingly.
- Endeavor to keep meal portion sizes small. Avoid blood sugar spikes by developing the habit of eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day rather than going long periods without food and having large meals.
- Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle that can help you to avoid developing gestational diabetes. Studies indicate that women who participate in four or more hours of physical activity a week before and during pregnancy help to minimize their risk of Gestational diabetes by approximately 70%. Meta-analysis also reveal that women with gestational diabetes who engage in resistance training for 20 to 45 minutes three times a week experienced lower fasting glucose levels. Physical activity in pregnancy has also been shown to have minimum risks and to be beneficial for most women. With that in mind, talk to your doctor about an exercise program that will be safe for the duration of your pregnancy. If you have not been exercising before becoming pregnant, be aware that physical changes that occur during pregnancy may make it more difficult for some women to tolerate exercise. Whatever your circumstance, it is always advisable to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Proper pregnancy management, monitoring and treatment for gestational diabetes will prevent any undue complications for you and your baby.