Diabetes is a disease caused due to unregulated glucose metabolism, leading to excess blood glucose. Diabetes developed during pregnancy, or gestational diabetes, is when the woman has elevated blood glucose levels. And the pregnant woman gets exposed to diabetes symptoms- unusual thirst, sugar in the urine, fatigue, and others.
Gestational diabetes condition usually gets normal post childbirth or pregnancy. However, in some, it may tend to develop type 2 diabetes if not properly managed. Diabetes in pregnancy can lead to a series of issues, including an increased risk of diabetes in the baby after birth.
Gestational diabetes, like many other multifactorial diseases, can be prevented, or the glucose levels must be maintained through appropriate measures. This article discusses different ways to prevent diabetes in pregnant women with essential tips for women who are pregnant or yet to get pregnant.
In this Article
- 1 Diabetes during pregnancy: What is it?
- 2 What causes Gestational Diabetes?
- 3 How can one prevent Gestational Diabetes?
- 4 Conclusion
- 5 FAQs
Diabetes during pregnancy: What is it?
Medically referred to as gestational diabetes, it occurs in pregnant women when the body does not make enough insulin- the essential glucose regulating hormone produced in the pancreas. Insufficient insulin production cannot let blood glucose uptake by the cells, leading to a spike in blood glucose levels and low energy production.
With more than 5 to 7% of pregnancies affected with gestational diabetes complications worldwide, In India, this condition affects almost 5 million women annually. Preventing and managing gestational diabetes is the key to having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
What causes Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is majorly due to non-genetic factors such as diet, maternal age, obesity, and other lifestyle factors. During pregnancy, the body undergoes substantial hormonal changes, including the secretion of pregnancy hormones and an increase in weight. These changes can make the body cells less efficient towards insulin usage, making the cells resistant to insulin. Insulin resistance can cause an increased need for insulin while insulin cannot be absorbed efficiently by the cells.
Most pregnant women have insulin resistance during the late pregnancy term. And some develop even before they get pregnant. This increased need for insulin by the cells causes gestational diabetes.
How can one prevent Gestational Diabetes?
If you are pregnant or planning to conceive lately, here are some tips to prevent the possibility of gestational diabetes.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Pregnant women who are overweight or at a high risk of developing gestational diabetes must focus on maintaining a healthy weight throughout pregnancy. Pregnancy is the time when women gain weight.
However, abnormal or excess weight can lead to gestational diabetes and pregnancy complications- Preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), preterm birth, and stillbirth. Sometimes, diabetes developed during pregnancy can lead to type-2 diabetes after pregnancy and increase the risk of developing other associated diseases.
Have a healthy increase in weight. And do not try to lose weight when pregnant. Consult your doctor or nutritionist on ways to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy.
Exercising is vital
Regular exercising can modulate irregular glucose uptake by the cells. Exercise makes the body’s cells more sensitive to insulin, which helps modulate blood glucose levels. Even during pregnancy, regular, moderate exercising, walking, and yoga can help manage blood glucose levels and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.
Have an active lifestyle and routine with,
- Walking or cycling regularly,
- Taking the stairs more often,
- Gardening, playing, and yoga,
- Consider low-impact exercises,
- Continue with your routine activities.
The key is to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. A minimum of 30 minutes of medium-impact exercises every day should help prevent gestational diabetes. Pregnant women should consult their specialists on the type of exercises required during pregnancy.
Have healthy, nutritious foods
Diet plays a pivotal role in maintaining the blood glucose levels in the body. Some foods shoot up glucose rates in the blood. Hence having a healthy, nutrition-rich diet is quintessential.
Some healthy food choices include:
- Lean proteins- beans, tofu, nuts, fish,
- Healthy fats- nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, and other plant-based fats,
- Whole grains- oatmeal, wheat bread, bran, barley, brown rice.
- Fresh vegetables and fruits,
- Plant-based dairy- almond milk, soy products,
- Low-fat milk and yoghurt.
Lower your carbohydrate and sugar intake
Foods with high, quick absorbable carbohydrates, sugars, and unhealthy fats can spike glucose levels and negatively affect a healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Choosing foods low in carbohydrates, sugars, and unhealthy fats can help maintain an ideal weight and decrease the risk of blood glucose rise.
Increase fibre intake
According to a study, a 10% increase in intake of foods rich in fibre like whole grains, seeds, fresh fruits, and vegetables can lower diabetes control risk by about 26%.
Avoid processed, packed, or junk foods
Packed, junk, or processed foods have a long shelf life. And so are high in preservatives, sugars, and sodium. These components in food can significantly raise blood sugar levels. Even packed juices and milk-based products can negatively impact your blood glucose levels.
Avoid processed and packed foods. Choose black tea, green tea, black coffee, or plant-based milk alternatives instead of milk products to reduce gestational diabetes risk.
Small Frequent meals in a day are all you need
The food we consume gets converted into glucose. Having large portions of food can suddenly increase blood sugar levels. Instead, small meals frequently can help regulate blood glucose well in the body and reduce the risk of sudden glucose spikes.
Diabetes developed during pregnancy can lead to pregnancy complications, putting both mother and baby at risk. However, gestational diabetes can be prevented with certain lifestyle modifications- diet and exercise changes. A healthy, active routine and a healthy weight can help lower the risk of gestational diabetes.
Pregnant women or women likely to conceive can connect with their doctor to check on dietary and exercise options to be followed during pregnancy. And for those who have gestational diabetes, try to maintain normal glucose levels with minute amendments in diet and exercise for a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.
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Some of the warning signs of gestational diabetes include:
- High sugar in the urine,
- Frequent thirst,
- Frequent urination,
- Weakness or fatigue,
- Blurred vision,
- Skin, bladder, or vaginal infections.
Diabetes in pregnancy leads to elevated glucose levels in the blood. This rise in blood glucose levels needs to be lower or maintained during pregnancy. Unusual glucose spikes can lead to pregnancy complications like preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), premature delivery, and stillbirth.
- Being overweight or obese,
- Gestational diabetes during the previous pregnancy,
- A family history of type 2 diabetes,
- Have hormone disorders like PCOS,
- Certain ethnic populations,
- Having a prediabetic condition.