Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops due to insufficient insulin production during pregnancy. They usually resolve after childbirth, but this can be prevented through regular exercise and proper diet [R] [R].
There are a lot of metabolic changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy. This can cause a temporary increase in blood sugar levels and cause gestational diabetes when normal levels are exceeded. Women who are at risk are those who are exceedingly overweight, have a family history of diabetes, and a personal history of gestational diabetes [R] [R].
When can dietary changes help prevent gestational diabetes?
In general, a balanced diet is recommended for pregnant women to help make sure the baby gets all the nutrients it needs to grow and develop. This entails eating a variety of foods rather than just one kind of food [R].
So far, current research studies show that only overweight or obese women can benefit from dietary changes to prevent gestational diabetes, and this can be done through the help of a dietitian or nutritional therapist. Their diet is regulated to decrease blood sugar levels and avoid too much weight gain during pregnancy. Generally, dietary changes don’t do much for women with normal weight in the prevention of gestational diabetes [R].
According to research, there is a decrease in gestational diabetes cases in overweight or obese women when they change their diet compared to when they don’t. The statistics show a decrease from 16 out of 100 women to 6 out of 100 women [R].
However, these research studies don’t show whether changing their diet also had any effects on the baby’s birth weight, reduce the risk of childbirth complications, or help lower C-section cases.
What dietary changes can be made to prevent gestational diabetes?
In general, pregnant women are not advised to go on a low-calorie diet because getting enough calories and nutrients is important for fetal growth and development. Since there are a few factors to look into when making exact dietary changes, such as weight and the amount of exercise a woman gets, it’s always advisable to always consult a nutritional therapist [R].
However, common advice would include avoiding excessive carbohydrates intake because it can cause weight gain and increased blood sugar levels. Fiber, along with a balanced diet, is generally recommended. Additionally, you could eat three normal-sized main meals in a day, along with two or three small meals in between [R].
Can dietary supplements help?
Although there isn’t sufficient research data to back it up, dietary supplements, such as omega3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil, probiotics, and myo-inositol, can prevent gestational diabetes. However, when omega-3 fatty acids were tested, there was no report of a preventive effect found [R].
Can getting more exercise help? According to a number of research studies, women who exercised regularly at the start of pregnancy have a lesser chance of developing gestational diabetes [R]
According to statistical data, 5 out of 100 women who didn’t move a lot during their pregnancy developed gestational diabetes as opposed to 3 out of 100 in women who had regular exercise [R].
Engaging in sports and getting regular exercise also helped lower C-section cases. It was found that 22 out of 100 non-exercising women had a C-section as opposed to the 18 out of 100 in women who had regular exercise [R].
Although it remains unclear if and how physical activity lowers the risk of childbirth complications, one thing we know is that exercising regularly doesn’t put you at risk of premature or pre-term birth [R].
In fact, doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity three to four days a week is found to reduce blood sugar levels. Common exercises include swimming, brisk walking, cycling, or yoga. However, some sports are considered too risky, such as skiing, football, and martial arts. Additionally, women who have a cervical or uterine problem that puts them at risk for premature birth are advised to avoid sports completely. To know what types of exercises you can do, it’s always best to consult with your OB-GYN beforehand [R].