4 Practical Tips to Help Avoid Gestational Diabetes

Pregnancy can be stressful – there’s a lot to think about and even avoid during those nine months. Taking the right supplements. Avoiding certain types of fish and raw foods. Steering clear of some medications. Controlling blood sugar. The list goes on.

Attempting to control blood sugar should be amongst the most important on that list, as one in seven pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. This condition happens during pregnancy when the body becomes more resistant to insulin and doesn’t make the proper amount of insulin to regulate blood sugar.

There are two main reasons to avoid gestational diabetes. First, moms who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes are at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes 5-10 years down the road. Second, babies of moms with gestational diabetes are at greater risk for having a heavier birth weight, a cesarean delivery, and birth complications. Kids of moms with gestational diabetes are also at a higher risk of struggling with obesity, and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices can help you avoid gestational diabetes, and if you do end up with the condition, it can be well managed with the proper medical interventions.

With so much to think about during pregnancy, here is a practical list of things women can do to help avoid the condition.

4 Practical Tips to Help Avoid Gestational Diabetes

 

  1. Achieve a healthy weight and make good lifestyle choices before conception

    It’s much easier to achieve a healthy weight when your body isn’t supporting two people. Controlling your weight and blood sugar before pregnancy will give you and your baby a healthy start.

  2. Exercise

    Exercise can help prevent too much weight gain during pregnancy, which in turn helps lower your risk for gestational diabetes. It also helps your body be more sensitive to the insulin your pancreas is making allowing better blood sugar control. Shoot for 30 minutes of moderate intensity, low-impact cardiovascular exercises most days per week. Walking, swimming, stationary biking, and the elliptical are all good choices. Please check in with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

  3. Eat good-for-you foods

    Achieving a healthy diet will help you achieve a heathy amount of weight gain during pregnancy. Eat controlled portions of healthy carbs, such as whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes and low-fat dairy. Stick to lean proteins and foods with healthy fats such as nuts. Limit added sugar and avoid sugary beverages as much as possible. Drink lots of water.

  4. Keep your OB appointments

    Make sure you attend all of your scheduled doctor’s visits. Around weeks 24-28, you will be screened for gestational diabetes. If you are diagnosed with the condition, it will be important to see a Certified Diabetes Educator or Registered Dietitian. He or she will help you with lifestyle management as well as glucose monitoring.

While these tips can definitely help you prevent gestational diabetes, some individuals will still struggle to control their blood sugar despite living a healthy lifestyle. Some moms will need further intervention such as insulin injections. However, when blood sugars are kept in a good range, know that by doing so you are giving yourself and your baby the healthiest possible start.

Amanda Riley, RD

About the Author: Amanda Riley, RD

Amanda Riley, MS, RD, LD, CDE, is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian in the division of Endocrinology at Cincinnati Children’s. Amanda is a Cincinnati native and has been with the Diabetes Center since 2011. Amada is a new mom to a baby girl, as well as a Boston Marathon and Ironman finisher.

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