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Gestational diabetes, like other types of diabetes, affects how an expectant mother’s body—as well as the baby’s—uses sugar (glucose).
Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect a pregnancy and lead to a difficult delivery.
No expectant mother wants to encounter pregnancy complications, and with gestational diabetes there’s some good news.
Megan Lauvray, APRN-CNP, a women’s health certified nurse practitioner, says expecting moms with gestational diabetes can control it.
Who’s at risk?
Most women don’t show symptoms of gestational diabetes. Routine screening for gestational diabetes happens between 24-28 weeks gestation. Your obstetrician will order a one-hour glucose challenge test, which measures your body’s response to sugar.
While anyone can develop the disease, certain factors put you at high risk.
- Elevated BMI
- History of gestational diabetes with a previous child
- Previous child weighing 9 lbs. or larger at birth
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
You might receive early screening if you have one of these risk factors.
But any expectant mother can develop gestational diabetes. “Ultimately anyone can be affected with gestational diabetes,” said Lauvray.
But by committing to healthy habits early in your pregnancy, you can lower your risk of gestational diabetes or control it if it develops.
Watch what you eat and drink
Lauvray recommends focusing on a healthy diet, including avoiding overeating. In fact, she encourages expecting moms to know they don’t need to eat a lot of extra food just because they’re pregnant.
“A lot of patients think they need to eat for two during their pregnancy, which is a big misconception,” said Lauvray.
She also recommends cutting back on processed foods and sugary drinks. These items have more sugar than you think and can lead to an increase in blood sugar for you and the baby.
“When patients eliminate drinking sugary drinks, it not only helps maintain healthy blood sugars for the pregnancy, but it also eliminates a source of extra calorie intake. Both are important to have a healthy pregnancy.”
Lauvray also recommends staying active. A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for gestational diabetes.
She says to “focus on 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, five days a week.”
If that sounds like a lot, consider breaking up the exercise throughout the day. Consider doing two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute intervals.
A great activity to remember is walking.
“People forget how beneficial walking is,” said Lauvray.
It doesn’t matter how you exercise if you move your body and stay active.
The more healthy habits, the better
While there’s no guarantee gestational diabetes can be prevented, the more healthy habits you adopt before or early on during pregnancy, the better.
And if you’ve had gestational diabetes, these habits can help you reduce your risk of having it with future pregnancies or reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.