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Preventing Gestational Diabetes

Updated on June 9, 2015

What is Gestational Diabetes?

The difference between gestational diabetes and other forms of diabetes is that a malfunctioning of the body's sugar metabolism occurs for the first time during pregnancy. Studies have shown that around four percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. A blood sugar test is not a necessary routine examination during pregnancy, however, and thus we can presume that there are more cases of gestational diabetes than what the official number shows.

An increase of the blood sugar level puts the mother and her baby at risk as gestational diabetes can eventually lead to preeclampsia, which is a life-threatening illness that can cause the whole organism to collapse. A higher blood sugar can also lead to bladder infections or vaginal inflammations and premature labor. Therefore, one should be informed about the risk factors and take the necessary preventive measures during the entire gestation period.

Gestational diabetes can also have negative effects on the baby. Too much sugar requires the baby to produce more insuline which stimulates the growth of the fatty tissue. These babies usually have an above-average weight and this might lead to birth complications and the need for a C-section. Later on in life, these kids are likely to develop weight problems which can favor the onset of diabetes.


How Gestational Diabetes Develops

During pregnancy, usually between the 24th and 28th week, the woman's body produces hormones that have an adverse effect on the regulation of the glucose level in the blood and inhibit the effect of insuline. If the pancreas is not able to produce enough insuline, the blood sugar levels rise and gestational diabetes can develop.


Risk Factors

There are several factors that need to be taken into account when evaluating the risk of developing gestational diabetes. The following factors may favor the onset of the disease:

  • Overweight (with a body mass index of 30 or more)
  • You have already suffered from gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Women with a South Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern descent have a higher chance of developing gestational diabetes than other ethnic origins
  • You have already given birth to a baby with a weight of 10 pounds (4.5kg) or more
  • There have been cases of type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes in your family.
  • You have a genetic predisposition for diabetes type 2.
  • You are older than 30.

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How to Prevent Gestational Diabetes

Nothing can be done about a genetic disposition for diabetes type 2 but there are several ways to reduce the risk of developing the disease.

No matter if you are overweight or not, you should make sure to follow a healthy, balanced diet during your pregnancy. Integrate a sufficient amount of wholemeal products into your diet such as brown rice and wholegrain pasta, as they contain the minerals, vitamins and fibers that you need. Fruits and vegetables should also be an integral part of your diet during pregnancy and beyond. An ideal way to prepare vegetables is to cook them in a pot with a small amount of fat.Make sure to use little iodized salt. It is also recommendable to consume low-fat dairy products in order to take in enough calcium. A minimum fluid intake of 1.5 liters of water or tea should be strictly adhered to. You need enough energy for you and your child but don't apply the antique rule of eating for two. This insight has been outdated for a long time.


Keeping active during pregnancy is another way to prevent the onset of the disease. Ideal sports during pregnancy are Pilates, swimming and walking, as they offer cardiovascular benefits, support your back, keep you flexible and strengthen your muscles. Women who are physically active during pregnancy usually experience a more pleasant and faster birth than inactive women. If you weren't active or practising any sports before your pregnancy, it is better to consult a doctor before embarking on any new sports.

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