We get asked many questions at Limitless Health and fitness, and one of the most recurring questions is about Gestational diabetes. This condition seems to be of growing concern to pretty much every westernised country, so we are going to dig a little deeper and see what exactly is going on.
We’ve all heard of Type 1 and 2 Diabetes, however there is a third type of diabetes which is affecting up to 8% of pregnant women called gestational diabetes. As there are plenty of measures to be taken against this type of diabetes, we feel a need to share some useful information about this condition and hopefully raise awareness about it.
What is gestational diabetes?
In gestational diabetes, hormones from the placenta contribute to insulin resistance, which reduces the ability of insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Your pancreas, which makes insulin, cannot produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance, so glucose cannot get into the cells to supply energy and builds up to abnormal levels in the blood. Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy; however, some may be earlier.
What are the consequences?
Gestational diabetes can affect both you and your baby. It increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes after delivering your baby and may affect the size of your baby, making it more likely you will have a baby too large for a vaginal delivery. Having gestational diabetes can also put your baby at risk of low blood sugar levels at birth.
How do I know if I have gestational diabetes?
Women often don’t experience gestational diabetes symptoms, but the condition can be detected through simple screening measures. Once discovered, gestational diabetes is very treatable. Knowing your risk for gestational diabetes can help you make better decisions about diet and exercise before and during your pregnancy.
What are the risk factors?
The American Diabetes Association has identified the six most prevalent risk factors for gestational diabetes:
- Age. Risk for gestational diabetes increases with age. Women younger than 25 years when they become pregnant are considered to have little or no risk. More than 60% of pregnancies occur in women over 25, so the majority of pregnant women have at least this one risk factor.
- Weight. Mothers who were overweight or obese prior to pregnancy are at increased risk for developing insulin resistance and high blood sugar, which can lead to diabetes.
- Race/ethnicity. Racial disparities have been observed, but are not fully understood. Non-Hispanic white women have the lowest risk for gestational diabetes. At increased risk are African-American women, American Indian women, Asian-American women (particularly those with South and Central Asian ancestry), Hispanic women, and Pacific Islander women.
- Past pregnancy outcomes. If you had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, or if you’ve given birth to a baby heavier than nine pounds, you are at risk for developing gestational diabetes in your current pregnancy.
- Past blood sugar issues. If your blood sugar levels prior to pregnancy were higher than normal, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis, your gestational diabetes risk increases.
- Diabetes in the family. A first-degree relative with diabetes increases your risk for gestational diabetes during your pregnancy. First-degree relatives include parents, siblings, and children.
What can I do to minimize my risk?
Start with discussing your options with your doctor. Some risk factors like age and family medical history cannot be changed, but there are two key steps you can take to limit your risk for gestational diabetes, even if you are at high risk.
- Eat a healthy diet
A study found that women whose diets were lower in fibre and higher in sugar and carbohydrates prior to pregnancy had a significantly greater risk of developing gestational diabetes. Any diet needs to provide sufficient calories for pregnancy, typically 2,000 2,500 kcal with the exclusion of simple carbohydrates. The main goal of dietary modifications is to avoid peaks in blood sugar levels. This can be done by spreading carbohydrate intake over meals and snacks throughout the day, and using slow-release carbohydrate sources, known as the G.I. Diet. Since insulin resistance is highest in mornings, breakfast carbohydrates need to be restricted more. Ingesting more fibre in foods with whole grains, or fruit and vegetables can also reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.
Exercise helps you keep your weight under control which is the key to preventing high blood sugar levels. Exercising also helps these levels by increasing the efficiency of your bodys insulin thereby keeping your gestational diabetes controlled. Exercising can also be good for pregnant women for the reason that it relieves stress which is vital while youre pregnant and especially when youre at the risk of suffering from gestational diabetes. Limitless Health and fitness have worked with and helped many clients suffering for this condition, so please feel free to email us with any concerns or queries you might have at [email protected] or leave a comment below.