8 Facts You Didn’t Know About Gestational Diabetes

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Up to 20 percent of pregnancies involve gestational diabetes, a condition in which a woman who has never had diabetes before develops it, usually during the second trimester of pregnancy. Women who develop gestational diabetes stand a risk of the disease continuing after they give birth. Gestational diabetes can also be harmful to the unborn child, so managing it during pregnancy is crucial. Often gestational diabetes can be controlled with simple but consistent lifestyle changes.

1. Watch Glucose Levels

The primary way to treat gestational diabetes involves following special meal plans designed to keep blood glucose levels within normal ranges for pregnant women. Often a pregnant woman with gestational diabetes is also required to test her blood glucose daily. She should aim for pre-meal glucose levels of 95 milligrams and postprandial levels of 120 milligrams or less.

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2. Dietary and Exercise Changes

A diet aimed at preventing gestational diabetes incorporates vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fruit and unsaturated fats. In addition, pregnant woman are encouraged to reduce the amount of sugar they ingest. Getting at least two and a half hours of exercise each week also proves helpful in keeping gestational diabetes at bay.

3. Small Changes Make a Difference

Studies show that these very small lifestyle changes in diet and exercise can reduce a woman’s risk of developing gestational diabetes by almost 40 percent. Women who make these simple changes also tend to gain fewer pounds during their pregnancies, further benefiting their overall health and lowering their diabetes risk.

4. Counseling Can Help

Women who are at risk for developing gestational diabetes do better at preventing the condition if they receive even a few counseling sessions regarding diet and exercise. Even though gestational diabetes typically occurs in the second trimester, it’s not clear whether that’s the optimal time to receive counseling. Having a support person involved helps the pregnant woman sustain her healthier lifestyle choices.

5. The Risk to the Baby

Women with gestational diabetes run a risk of having their babies grow excessively large. Often this means that women require a Caesarian delivery, and there’s also an increased risk of premature birth. The babies can be hypoglycemic, and often they develop Type 2 diabetes later in life.

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6. Gestational Diabetes Affects Men, Too

Surprising study results reported by MedicalXpress have shown that if a pregnant woman develops gestational diabetes, the baby’s father has a 33 percent greater chance of also developing diabetes. Possibly this is a result of obesity on the part of both parents. The connection is also probably related to the fact that the parents share the same environment and similar diet and exercise habits. Men whose wives develop gestational diabetes should be checked for the disease as well.

7. The Danger of Diabetes Can Recur or Continue

Women who develop gestational diabetes stand a much greater risk of developing diabetes after giving birth. A woman with gestational diabetes is seven times more likely to develop diabetes later, even if she seems fine after giving birth. The danger is exacerbated if the woman is overweight or obese. The tendency to develop gestational diabetes seems linked to Type 2 diabetes later in life.

8. Losing Weight Is Key

A woman who is even 20 percent over her ideal body weight is at risk for Type 2 diabetes, and experiencing gestational diabetes increases that risk. Watching fat intake and portion size are key steps to the weight reduction needed to reduce the risk. Exercise, which lets the body use up glucose without producing extra insulin, is also beneficial.

Simple changes in lifestyle, with a focus on a healthy diet and a minimal base level of exercise, can make a major difference for a pregnant woman at risk for gestational diabetes. See your doctor for regular prenatal care, and be proactive about maintaining a healthy diet as soon as you know you’re pregnant.

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