How to Prevent Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a pregnancy-related condition that affects many women. It is characterized by an increase in blood sugar levels that is caused by insulin resistance during pregnancy. This condition can put you and your baby at risk for complications.

It is not easy to predict who will acquire this condition, but learning how to prevent gestational diabetesis the best way to protect yourself and your baby from its undesirable effects.

Who Are At Risk of Gestational Diabetes?

Before figuring out how to prevent gestational diabetes, some risk factors can help you better monitor your pregnancy and whole health in advance. Research shows that there are certain factors that increase your risk for gestational diabetes, such as:

  • Being overweight. If your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or more before getting pregnant, you have an increased likelihood of developing high blood sugar levels in pregnancy.
  • Abdominal fat. Women who have greater amounts of abdominal fat during early pregnancy are more likely to develop gestational diabetes towards late pregnancy.
  • Age. Gestational diabetes is more common among pregnant women over the age of 35.
  • Positive family history. Women who have a family history of the disease or belonging to certain ethnic groups (African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans) are statistically more likely to have gestational diabetes.
  • Previous history of gestational diabetes. If you had the condition in your previous pregnancy, you are more likely to experience it again in subsequent pregnancies. Also, if you have slightly increased blood sugar levels before pregnancy (prediabetes), you may develop diabetes during your pregnancy.
  • Prolonged bed rest. If for some reason you are advised to reduce activity and be on prolonged bed rest, you are more likely to put on more weight during pregnancy and develop diabetes.

How to Prevent Gestational Diabetes

1. Plan for Your Pregnancy

There are many steps you can take to avoid diabetes even before you get pregnant. If you are at risk, consult with your doctor before becoming pregnant and ask him/her gestational diabetes prevention measures. This may include monitoring your blood sugar levels and planning to lose excess weight months before your pregnancy.

2. Make a Medical Appointment

See your Ob-Gyn (obstetrics-gynecology) immediately when become pregnant and stick to your follow-up schedule throughout your pregnancy to ensure your health and your baby's well-being. If you are at average risk for the disease, a screening exam may be performed during the second trimester at 24 to 28 weeks. However, if you have a high risk, you may get tested much earlier.

3. Modify Your Diet

When it comes to how to prevent gestational diabetes, diet adjustment can be essential. Your doctor will advise you eating certain foods at ideal portions and meal timingto maintain the blood glucose in a normal range.

  • Limit your carbohydrate intake and eat more fiber-rich foods which help stabilize sugar levels. These include whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat more protein-rich foods like lean meat and chicken, which are also rich in B vitamins that help reduce the risk of birth defects. Reduce certain fish consumption to avoid exposure to high mercury levels, which can be dangerous for you and your baby.
  • Dark green and leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli can be taken as good sources of iron and protein. Eat fresh fruits in moderation because they can be high in sugar. Also, just avoid eating too much "white" sugar, flour, pasta,as well as starchy potatoes.
  • Watch out the portions. Your body releases insulin when your blood sugar levels increase as you eat. It is best to keep your levels of insulin steady rather than having extreme ups and downs throughout the day. To do this, try to eat small frequent meals throughout the day instead of large meals to maintain steady blood sugar levels.

4. Be Active

Being active even before you become pregnant is an important step in how to prevent gestational diabetes. Exercising during pregnancy at least 30 minutes/day or 4 hours/week protects you from developing gestational diabetes. Ask your doctor about the recommended type and duration of physical activity for you. Safe exercises typically include swimming and walking. Additionally, you can also incorporate short activities during the day to meet your goals, including light chores.

Precaution: Just avoid sitting for long periods. Remember to monitor your heart rate while exercising, and avoid exceeding the target heart rate recommended for your specific age and weight.

5. Insulin Shots

If these measures do not help meet your blood glucose targets, a medicine called insulin may be prescribed to go along with a healthy diet and physical activity. Safe for both you and baby, this medicine is usually administered in the form of insulin shots. Your health provider will teach you how to self-administer insulin shots.

6. Lower Your Risk of Diabetes After Delivery

The same factors that put you at risk of getting gestational diabetes can also increase your risk of developing type-2 diabetes after delivery or later in life. It is therefore ideal for you to follow the same healthy plan for diet and exercise after your baby is born. Try to get back to a healthy weight after delivery. However, you don't have to lose a lot of weight right away. Losing just 5% to 7% of your weight makes a significant difference already.

How Will I Know If My Blood Sugar Levels Are On Target?

Blood glucose levels are usually checked upon waking up, before meals, after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner. Your health provider may ask you to use a blood glucose meter, which is a device that allows you to check your blood sugar levels on your own. You will be instructed how to use the device, including how to obtain a drop of blood from a finger prick, what your blood sugar target range is, and when to obtain your blood glucose levels. You will also need to write down the results to aid in monitoring.

 
 
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