Gestational diabetes is characterized by temporary elevation of levels of blood sugar during pregnancy which can affect you and your baby’s health. Approximately nine percent of females who are pregnant suffer from gestational diabetes.
There are no known causes of gestational diabetes; however, it is accompanied by several risk factors including being greater than age 25, being obese or overweight, having a family member with diabetes type 2, having greater than normal levels of blood glucose before pregnancy, having a history of gestational diabetes in your previous pregnancy, having a history of giving birth to a large baby (birth weight nine lbs or greater) or having a stillbirth or having signs and symptoms of insulin resistance including acanthosis nigricans or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). If you belong to certain ethnic groups including Hispanic, Asian-American, African-American, Pacific Islander or Native American, then your risks of developing gestational diabetes are increased.
How to Prevent Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes happens when the cells of your body develops resistance to the insulin produced in the body. This occurs due to the result of increased demands of insulin produced by the hormonal changes during pregnancy. You can prevent gestational diabetes by maintaining a healthy lifestyle both before and during pregnancy.
1. Lose excess weight before pregnancy or maintain your optimum weight that is healthy for you before pregnancy
If you are trying to conceive and overweight or obese, it’s important that you lose the extra pounds and maintain a weight that is healthy for you before you get pregnant. If you are obese or overweight, it does not necessarily imply that you will get gestational diabetes, but your risks are definitely increased. Having a BMI (body mass index) of greater than 30 increases your risk three times to get gestational diabetes during pregnancy in comparison to having a body mass index of 25 or lesser.
Weight loss is not recommended by doctors during pregnancy, even if you are overweight. However, if you are trying to conceive, losing extra pounds before getting pregnant will make your pregnancy healthier.
If during pregnancy your body mass index is greater than 30, you will be asked to do a GTT (oral glucose tolerance test) to measure your levels of blood glucose. This is generally done before you are 16 weeks pregnant. However, if your body mass index is 25 or less, a GTT is generally done between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.
2. Eat the correct diet
How to prevent gestational diabetes most effectively with diet?
- Increase your intake of fiber. Fiber helps in stabilizing sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include bran, whole grains, vegetables particularly green leafy vegetables and fruits particularly prunes.
- Increase protein intake. Protein forms an essential component of a healthy and balanced diet. Make sure that you get your protein from leaner sources. Lean cut of meats including chicken and poultry are great sources of protein.
- Avoid eating certain fish that contain high levels of mercury, which may prove dangerous for pregnant females. Leafy green vegetables including spinach and broccoli are also good protein sources along with iron.
- Eat moderate amounts of fresh fruits with lower sugar content. Though fruits are recommended during pregnancy; fruit juices especially those with added sugar must be avoided.
- How to prevent gestational diabetes? Eliminate “white” foods from your diet. This implies food items including flour, sugar, pasta and starchy potatoes. These foods will produce spikes in blood sugar levels; hence, you should limit their intake to small amounts.
- Watch how much and when you eat. Insulin is released by your body when it responds to high levels of blood glucose. Eating big meals or keeping long duration between meals may result in a spike in blood glucose. It is in your best interest to maintain a steady insulin level in your blood all through the day instead of spikes and lows. Make sure to eat frequent small meals all through the day to keep your blood glucose levels steady. Eat smaller portion sizes. For instance, you can eat a 300-400 calorie meal every 3 hours during the entire day so that the total consumption is of 5 meals of 1500 to 2000 calories.
- Avoid eating processed foods as they are full of empty calories and refined sugars and fats and have minimum or no nutritional value. They can also cause a spike in your blood sugar level.
3. Stay active
How to prevent gestational diabetes? Begin exercising before you conceive. According to research, females who were active physically for four hours per week during and before pregnancy can decrease their risk of developing gestational diabetes by around 70%. Consult your physician about what kind of physical activity and how much is right for you.
Do safe exercises including low impact exercises such as swimming and walking during pregnancy. Avoid high impact exercises or those exercises that have a greater potential for causing injuries including contact sports.
Most physicians approve of up to 30 minutes of physical exercise every day for most days of the week for a pregnant female. Take a brisk walk daily. Swim laps. Ride a bike. If you are not able to do a single 30 minutes of workout, try to do several short 5-10 minutes sessions as they will provide similar benefits. You can squeeze in extra physical activity in your day by parking your car one block away from your house and walk to your house. Each step you put forward increases your chance to stay healthy and prevent gestational diabetes.