Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs in women who are pregnant who don’t have a history of diabetes while not pregnant.
During pregnancy, your body goes through changes like weight gain and increased hormone levels. These changes can cause your body to be less responsive to a hormone called insulin; insulin is a chemical that your cells need in order to take in blood sugar. With gestational diabetes, your body does not produce enough insulin to meet your body’s needs.
Researchers still don’t fully understand why some people end up with gestational diabetes while other women don’t, but they have identified some risk factors that may predispose some to having it.
Some of these risk factors include:
- Poor physical activity
- A history of prediabetes
- A history of delivering a baby weighing over 9 pounds
- Having a BMI >25
Whether you have these risk factors or not, there are some steps that you can take to lower your risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy. Some of these steps are listed below.
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Even before your pregnancy, you want to be choosing a diet that includes plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Diets high in processed sugars can change how your body uses insulin and responds to sugars, and this can put you at a higher risk of diabetes.
Maintain a Consistent Exercise Routine
Exercise is an important way to lower your risk of gestational diabetes. Exercise has been shown to improve your body’s ability to use insulin effectively, meaning that you body won’t need to produce as much. Exercise also lowers your blood sugar levels.
It’s often recommended that you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. But you should check with your healthcare provider about how much, and what types of exercises are safe to do with your pregnancy.
Start at and maintain a healthy weight
If you are planning a pregnancy, it’s important to start it at a healthy weight. Research has shown that people who are overweight are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
It’s also important to have a healthy amount of weight gain during your pregnancy. Weight gain during pregnancy is healthy, but you want to be careful that it’s not too much. Recommendations for healthy weight gain will depend on your body type and how many babies you’re carrying.
Get Tested for Gestational Diabetes
You can get checked for gestational diabetes during your prenatal appointments through a “glucose test.” With a glucose test, your healthcare provider will measure your blood sugar levels after drinking a sugary syrup. If your blood sugar reading is considered high, you will likely have to have the test repeated with additional blood sugar readings to confirm a diagnosis of gestational diabetes.
- “Gestational Diabetes” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic. 09 April 2022.
- “Gestational Diabetes”. CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 30 December 2022.
- Morisset, A. S., St-Yves, A., Veillette, J., Weisnagel, S. J., Tchernof, A., & Robitaille, J. (2010). Prevention of gestational diabetes mellitus: a review of studies on weight management. Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews, 26(1), 17–25. https://doi.org/10.1002/dmrr.1053
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