How to Prevent Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a short-term condition that occurs during pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gestational diabetes affects roughly 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States. Women with gestational diabetes have higher-than-normal blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

There are pregnancy complications associated with gestational diabetes. One of the most serious is called preeclampsia, which can cause high blood pressure and can be fatal of not treated in time.

Gestational diabetes is also associated with a condition called macrosomia, where a baby can grow too large. Macrosomia is associated with a higher risk for an emergency C-section delivery.

And finally, gestational diabetes can also lead to your baby having low blood glucose at birth. If gestational diabetes has been poorly controlled, your baby is even at increased risk for stillbirth.

While the exact causes aren’t fully understood, there are things women can do to lower the possibility of developing the condition. But before I get to that, let’s look at some of the common risk factors for developing gestational diabetes:

  • Being over the age of 25
  • Being overweight
  • Having a close relative with non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes
  • Health issues that induce insulin resistance (i.e. polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • High blood pressure, especially prior to becoming pregnant
  • Experiencing a large weight gain during pregnancy
  • Being pregnant with more than one child (i.e. twins, triplets, etc.)

How to Lower Your Risk of Developing Gestational Diabetes

The best way to prevent and manage gestational diabetes is through diet and exercise. Kind of a one-two punch at controlling blood sugar levels.

Some exercises that are sage to perform during pregnancy include:

  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Weight Training

You’ll also want to pay close attention to your carbohydrate intake.

What foods should you eat and avoid during pregnancy? Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Eat protein with each meal.
  2. Include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.
  3. Limit or avoid processed foods.
  4. Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating.

Specific food items to focus on:

Proteins such as lean meats and fish, eggs or egg whites, dairy and lentils and other legumes.

Fresh organic produce is best but frozen veggies are another good option. Be sure to limit the amount of sugary fruits you eat. Low glycemic fruits such as grapefruit, cantaloupe and berries are best.

But perhaps the biggest dietary advice is what NOT to eat while pregnant. It’s very important that you stay away from ALL processed foods including fast foods and really anything that comes in packaging. Many foods you would never guess, including salad dressings, soups and many flavored yogurts, have a LOT of hidden sugars in them. So it’s best to stick with whole foods and make your own meals as much as possible.

If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, ask your OBGYN to connect you with a certified nutritionist who can work with you to develop a personalized meal plan that will keep you and baby healthy.