A study on gestational diabetes risk published by the British Medical Journal has shown some optimistic results to help reduce the growing number of cases of gestational diabetes.
Researchers found pregnant women were able to reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes risk by half.
Women who were trying to conceive were able to reduce their risk by even more.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a common pregnancy condition, where the mother-to-be develops diabetes during pregnancy. Unlike other forms of diabetes, it resolves after giving birth.
Around 8% of pregnancies in Australia are affected by gestational diabetes, although it’s believed the number is increasing.
In the USA, gestational diabetes affects up to 10% of all pregnancies.
What Are The Gestational Diabetes Risks For Mother and Baby?
Gestational diabetes can have both short and long term health implications for both mother and baby.
Women who suffer from gestational diabetes have an increased risk of gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia and may suffer from type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes risk increases the likelihood of having a large (macrosomic) baby, and some doctors will insist on an induction of labour (which increases the risk of c-section) before the estimated due date.
Babies have an increased risk of suffering from jaundice, low blood sugar levels after the birth, and developing type 2 diabetes in later life. If a c-section becomes necessary, there are surgical complications to add to the list too.
A 10 year study of over 14,000 women and 20,136 eligible pregnancies, tracked the health status of each woman’s lifestyle.
Of those 20,136 pregnancies, there were 823 cases of gestational diabetes. The study found the single highest risk factor for gestational diabetes was being overweight (a pre-pregnancy BMI of 25 or over). These women had an almost four times higher risk of developing gestational diabetes than women with healthy BMIs. The study also found an increased risk of gestational diabetes for those at the higher end of the normal BMI range (23 – 24.9).
Diets are a major factor
The study analysed the diets, amount of physical activity, and smoking status of the participants, finding that each factor was associated with an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes.
These associations were considered to be significant, even after the results were adjusted for other risk factors such as family history and maternal age.
The study found the cumulative effect of lifestyle factors helped to decrease the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Women who ate a healthy diet (as set out in the study), exercised for 150 minutes each week, had a BMI of less than 25, and did not smoke, were 83% less likely to develop gestational diabetes than women who did not meet any of the healthy lifestyle criteria.
The researchers concluded that as many as half of all cases of gestational diabetes could be avoided if women maintained a healthy lifestyle before pregnancy. For women already pregnant, making healthy changes to their lifestyle also lowered their risk of developing gestational diabetes. For these women, eating a healthy diet, exercising and not smoking reduced their risk.
Before you increase the amount of exercise you’re doing or if you want to begin a new exercise regime while pregnant, be sure to get the okay from your midwife or doctor first. Also, it can be unsafe to diet during pregnancy, so if you want to change your diet, make sure you speaking to your care provider and seek the advice of a qualified nutritionist.
Cutting out foods like sugar (in both drinks and foods), processed wheat products e.g. bread, white pasta, cereals, white potatoes, biscuits, cake etc, is a great start to help avoid a range of health problems and complications. Both of these things are inflammatory in the body, can interfere with hormones and impact your immune system.