A gestational diabetes diagnosis is the last thing a mom-to-be wants to hear. A question I get asked all the time is whether or not it’s possible to prevent gestational diabetes. While there’s nothing you can do that will 100% prevent it, there are things you can do to reduce your risk.
How to Prevent Gestational Diabetes
Begin at a healthy weight. Since being overweight or obese is a risk factor for gestational diabetes, starting a pregnancy at a healthy weight can improve your odds. A normal weight BMI is anywhere between 18.5 and 24.9. As a frame of reference, overweight is a BMI of between 25.0 and 29.9, and obese is a BMI of 30.0 and above.
Move your body. Exercise reduces insulin resistance. It helps get the sugar from your blood into your cells. It’s helpful anytime, but it’s also used after a meal as a way of bringing blood sugar down. Nothing crazy is needed. A 15-20 minute walk after lunch or dinner is all it takes.
Choose nutrient-dense foods. Nutrient dense foods are relatively low in calories but high in nutrients. They contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean protein. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and oily fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense too, but they are higher in calories. So, if you are trying to watch calories, they should be eaten in moderation.
Get prenatal care. Prenatal care is essential. Call your healthcare provider as soon as you learn that you’re pregnant. Most women are tested for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation. However, you might be tested earlier if you’re at a higher risk. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include having a personal history of gestational diabetes, being overweight/obese, having a family history of type 2 diabetes, or having prediabetes. Certain racial groups are also considered to be at a higher risk. Those include African Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander.
If you suspect that you have gestational diabetes, getting tested is crucial. They key to avoiding gestational diabetes complications is effectively managing your blood sugar. If are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you’ll most likely be put on a gestational diabetes carb counting diet and asked to monitor your blood sugar. If that happens, keeping track of what you eat and your blood sugar in a gestational diabetes food & blood sugar log will be really helpful for you to learn how YOUR body responds.
While I know you want to learn how to prevent gestational diabetes, know that you can’t 100% eliminate the possibility. Being familiar with the risk factors and taking the steps mentioned above can give you a great start at a healthy pregnancy.