Gestational diabetes (GDM) is having high blood sugar while pregnant. In this condition, a woman’s body may have trouble processing sugar while she is pregnant. Healthcare providers typically test a woman for GDM between 24-28 weeks gestation in her pregnancy. If a woman is diagnosed with GDM, it does not necessarily mean that she had diabetes before her pregnancy, and, in most cases, GDM goes away after delivery. However, women with a history of GDM still have a higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes later on in their life time. In addition, your child may have a greater chance of being obese or developing Type 2 diabetes. What can you do? Here are tips:
1. Get tested: I see a lot of women get tested for diabetes while they are pregnant, but not so many get tested after they have their baby. I would recommend getting testing again with a simple blood test at your 6 week postpartum check. If the test is normal, have a diabetes screen every 1-3 years at your primary care provider’s office. If your test is elevated, speak to your healthcare provider about your test results and to find out the best course of action for your body.
2. Be mindful of your food choices: Since diabetes affects how your body uses sugar (glucose), then it is important to watch the foods you are eating. Choose whole grains instead of processed carbohydrates and foods with a high glycemic load. Foods with a high glycemic load cause spikes in your blood sugar and can increase your risk for diabetes. Examples of these foods include white bread, potatoes, white rice, donuts and bagels. Also, avoid sugary drinks and choose more water instead. Choose good fats found in liquid vegetable oils and nuts instead of trans fats in fried foods and many migraines. Limit red meat (beef, pork, bacon, hot dogs, deli meat) and choose fish and poultry instead.
3. Get active: Working those muscles more, and more often, allows your body to use the glucose in your body for energy. It will help to get at least 30 minutes of activity five days per week. In fact, the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that walking briskly for a half hour every day reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30 percent.
4. Lose weight: It’s important to get back to a healthy weight after having your baby. Baby fat is not your friend! Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to safely lose weight at the recommended pace. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, being overweight can increase your risk of having Type 2 diabetes by seven fold! However, losing just 7-10% of your body weight can cut your risk in half.
The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is highly preventable! Even if you had diabetes in your pregnancy, that does not mean that you have to be one of the ones who develops diabetes in the future.
Hu FB, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, et al. Diet, lifestyle, and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in women. N Engl J Med.2001; 345:790-7.
Hu FB, Sigal RJ, Rich-Edwards JW, et al. Walking compared with vigorous physical activity and risk of type 2 diabetes in women: a prospective study. JAMA. 1999; 282:1433-9.