There are many risk factors that can put a woman at risk of developing gestational diabetes. Family history of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure (BP), and having a previous pregnancy with GDM are some common risk factors. Having a previous baby weighing more than 9lbs, a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), previous miscarriage, steroid use, and expecting multiples can also increase risk. As for ethnicity, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and American Indians are more prone to getting gestational diabetes.
Complications for mom and baby
When a woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, getting treatment is important to prevent both the mother and the baby from developing problems. A mother with untreated gestational diabetes can develop complications such as preeclampsia, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and is more likely to deliver by cesarean. Babies born to women with GDM are at risk of preterm birth, stillbirth, being large for gestational age, low blood sugar, and breathing issues. A baby who experienced gestational diabetes in utero may be prone to developing type 2 diabetes and obesity in later life.
Avoiding hyperglycemia during pregnancy
Preventing gestational diabetes is not always possible, but getting involved in healthy habits may help. Eat healthy foods and stay physically active as much as possible. If planning pregnancy, ensure a healthy weight is met before a baby is on board. If already pregnant, talk to a healthcare provider about appropriate weight gain during each trimester. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a few days during the week can also be helpful.
Making healthy food choices
All women who are pregnant should focus on a healthy diet to ensure optimal nutrition for the baby. Foods to include are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, high-fiber, and low in fat and calories. Women with hyperglycemia must closely monitor carbohydrate, fat, and protein intake during pregnancy.
How much intake is needed?
The current recommended carbohydrate intake for pregnant women is 157g per day and 28g of fiber daily. The intake of protein depends on the trimester. During the first trimester, women require about 46g of protein per day, while needs increased in the second and third trimesters to about 71g daily. Women with gestational diabetes may require different amounts depending on blood sugar levels and can benefit from meeting with a nutritionist.
Say no to these foods
Women with gestational diabetes should avoid certain foods to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Some foods to avoid include fast food, fried food, and baked foods such as muffins and donuts. Also, avoid eating starchy foods like white pasta or rice, and sweetened cereals or oatmeal. Sugary drinks are not recommended.
Getting through GDM
Avoiding gestational diabetes altogether is the best approach for a healthy mom and baby. However, this isn’t always possible when a woman has certain risk factors. If hypoglycemia is suspected and a GDM diagnosis is made, the pregnant woman should work with a doctor and nutritionist to control blood sugar. With the right approach, mom and baby can get through pregnancy healthy.