Being pregnant is hard work. As if it were not enough to juggle the major physical changes and hormone induced emotional changes, pregnant women also have to worry about the health of their baby. Everyone knows the major no-no’s for pregnant women: don't smoke, don’t drink, stay away from trampolines. However, gestational diabetes is rapidly becoming a growing concern of pregnant women. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, gestational diabetes effected 9.2% of babies born in America as of 2014.
While most people have heard of diabetes, significantly fewer people have heard of gestational diabetes. Some people may see this and think "I don't have diabetes, so I don't have to worry."However, gestational diabetes occurs in women who have never had diabetes before. During pregnancy, some women find that their blood sugar is high during the later part of their pregnancy. These women are said to have gestational diabetes.
How Does Gestational Diabetes Impact the Baby?
Because gestational diabetes occurs later on in the pregnancy, the baby is fully formed. Thankfully, this means that the birth defects seen in some children of women who were diagnosed with diabetes before they got pregnant won't be seen in children whose mothers develop gestational diabetes.
However, that does not mean that gestational diabetes is not serious or potentially harmful. If gestational diabetes goes untreated, extra blood glucose penetrates the placenta. If this occurs, the baby can be born with high blood glucose levels. If the baby has high blood sugar in utero, their pancreas makes extra insulin to help get rid of the glucose in the blood, which in turn gets stored as fat. If this occurs, the baby can potentially be born with macrosomia, which is a medical term for a "fat" baby. While everyone loves a fat baby, and often sees a hefty baby as a sign of good health, this is not always the case. Babies dealing with macrosomia face their own health risks, including being born with very low blood glucose levels, increased risk for respiratory illness, obesity, and type 2 diabetes as adults.
Preventing Gestational Diabetes
Now that the risks and repercussions of gestational diabetes have been outlined, it is time to look for ways to prevent the disease. It is important to understand what the possible risk of gestational diabetes is. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease says that the chances of developing gestational diabetes are higher if the pregnant patient is over 25, overweight, already had gestational diabetes, has a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes, is pre-diabetic, is African-American, American Indian, Asian America, Hispanic/Latina, or Pacific Islander American, or has polycystic ovaries. If the patient fits the criteria of a person who is at high risk for gestational diabetes, it is important that you work closely with your doctor or a medical professional to create a plan for their pregnancy. Obviously no one wants to have to go back and forth to the doctor even more regularly than expected as a pregnant person, but the more time one spends checking in with their doctor, the less likely they are to develop gestational diabetes.
Preventing Gestational Diabetes At Home
This may seem overwhelming amount of risk factors, but don’t lose hope. Thankfully, preventing gestational diabetes is not all in the doctor’s hands. There are plenty of things that pregnant women can do at home to stay healthy and ward away gestational diabetes.
Eating Healthy and Exercising Regularly
As women, there is a lot of emotional baggage that comes into play when talking about eating healthy and exercising. Words like “diet,” “weight,” and “exercise” can conjure up images of fretting over a scale, a plate of plain kale, and horrific bathing suit shopping flashbacks. This is in part because of how exercise and diet are presented to women: something women should do to be more appeasing to the public, not as something to do for oneself. This attitude is not only potentially dangerous for you, but for your baby as well.
The University of Bergen Study
Here is the reality: A study done by the University of Bergen in Norway finds evidence that women who gain weight between babies are possibly at a higher risk to develop gestational diabetes.
Researchers looked at 24,200 women who gave birth between 2006 and 2014. The researchers, led by Linn Sorbye. Roughly 36% of the women studied had gained over 1 BMI unit between the very beginning of their first pregnancy and their second pregnancy. Researchers found that women who gained twice as much weight were also twice as much at risk of developing diabetes during the second pregnancy. The researchers found that the more weight the women had gained since their first pregnancy, the more at risk they were for developing gestational diabetes. In fact, the risk increased fivefold for women who had gained the most weight.
On a more positive note, researchers also found that women who were considered over their recommended weight before their first pregnancy and lost weight after their delivery significantly reduced their risk of diabetes during their second pregnancy. This is excellent news, as it points to weight as a major factor, meaning that if you do all that you can to maintain a healthy weight and eat nutritiously, the risk of gestational diabetes is much lower.
As women, it is important to frame exercise and nutritious eating as something fun and personalized. Thanks to the age of the internet that we live in, a quick Google search will present you with a seemingly inexhaustible collection of incredibly healthy and tasty food. Dieting is no longer the cottage cheese and fruit plates of the 1990s. There are thousands of blogs dedicated to providing healthy recipes for free. Sites like AllRecipes.com have sections for diabetes-friendly recipes.
To many people, cooking for their loved ones is a way to show that you love and care for them. If you are the head chef in your home, it may be hard to not only cook healthier for yourself, but for those around you. While your family may not exactly be hankering for your new diabetes-friendly meal ideas, you can still find ways to substitute some of the ingredients in your regular dinner staples.
If you need more help, talk to your doctor about possibly talking to a nutritionist. A nutritionist can offer you a more personalized meal plan and really help you hone in on areas of your diet that work and areas that work.
Substitution Could Be A Solution
Looking for a way to use all of that Shredded Wheat you stocked up on to be more health conscious? Instead of using dry breadcrumbs for coatings and toppings, crunch up some whole wheat, heavy fiber cereal and use it as a crunchy topping or breading. It cuts your calories in half, cuts down your sodium intake by more than half, and adds 22 extra grams of fiber.
Other substitutions include, but are not limited to, using ground turkey in the place of ground beef, using fat-free evaporated milk rather than heavy cream, opting for the low fat or fat free versions of cheeses, milks, etc. Using a lot of fresh spices rather than pre-made seasoning salts helps to lower one’s sodium intake. There are many other substitutions laid out conveniently around the internet. This way you can continue to make family recipes without your family noticing how healthy you are helping them be.
Find Your Exercise
For many, when people think of running or exercise, they think of being forced to do laps in gym class, or flashback to that wholly traumatic event known as the timed mile. The key to maintaining a good exercise regiment is to find something that you genuinely enjoy doing. There are several quizzes and questionnaires online that suggest what type of exercise you may enjoy.
Workouts like yoga, pilates, walks around your neighborhood or park are really helpful for easing stress while exercising. There are a lot of free yoga and pilates classes online that you may find helpful, including doyogawithme.com and YouTube. Just because you don’t sweat like Rocky Balboa at the end of your workout doesn’t mean your exercise isn’t paying off. It is far more important that you routinize your exercise and find it enjoyable rather than overexerting yourself, thus decreasing your chances of continuing an exercise regiment.
For people who like to exercise in private but want a cardio workout from home should checkout sites like PopSugar or Greatist. These sites provide fun and fast-paced cardio videos so that you can be healthy in the comfort of your own home. These videos usually provide variations of the exercise based on skill. Don’t worry about doing every step of the dance cardio like the instructor does. Do what you can to keep up. For those of you who are ready to lose weight fast and aren’t afraid to sweat in public, try cycling, kickboxing classes or high intensity circuit training. If you’re on a budget, search through Groupon to see which exercise classes or services are on sale this month!
If you need someone to hold you accountable, try a trainer. They will tell you which muscles to work on which machines in order to achieve your fitness goals. If you need to be held accountable but don’t have personal trainer money, have no fear. Quick Google searches will provide you with exercise groups in your area where everyone can keep each other on track. If you need to be held accountable, but don’t want to exercise in front of people, start competitions with people at work or your friends and use fit bits or pedometers to track your steps.
Armed with the knowledge of how to minimize gestational diabetes, you are ready to bring your new baby into a happy and healthy lifestyle!