It’s important to know about gestational diabetes risk factors. Gestational diabetes affects up to 10% of pregnancies in the US. It can impact any woman, but there are risk factors that make someone more prone to develop gestational diabetes. Some of these risk factors are uncontrollable, but others can be controlled.
If you know about the risk factors, you can make lifestyle choices to hopefully avoid a gestational diabetes diagnosis.
Risk Factors Gestational Diabetes (uncontrollable)
- advanced maternal age (≥35 yrs)
- family history of type 2 diabetes
- history of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- history of delivering baby weighing more than 9 pounds at birth (macrosomia)
- multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.)
- history of recurrent miscarriage
- short stature (less than 4’11” or 1.5 m)
- polycystic ovary syndrome
- history of stillbirths
- hypertension or preeclampsia in current pregnancy
- Ethnic minority group (Asian, black, American Indian, and Hispanic)
Risk Factors Gestational Diabetes (controllable)
- pre-pregnancy weight status (overweight/obesity)
- sedentary lifestyle
- excessive gestational weight gain
Once someone receives a gestational diabetes diagnosis, they are usually put on a carb-counting diet. This approach is used to ensure a woman with gestational diabetes limits the amount of carbs she is eating at a time to an amount that the body can handle. And it ensures she is spacing them out throughout the day.
When a woman is trying to prevent gestational diabetes, the approach is different. Once a woman is pregnant, even if she is overweight/obese, she should NOT be trying to lose weight. Before she gets pregnant, however, weight loss is recommended to lower the risk of gestational diabetes if she is overweight/obese. The underlying factor at work here is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is what causes both type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
Physical activity can help lower insulin resistance. 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity is recommended. However, even if you can’t get to 150 minutes, some physical activity is better than none. As always, if you are beginning an exercise routine, make sure you have clearance from your physician first.
Pons et al: Risk factors for gestational diabetes mellitus in a sample of pregnancy women diagnosed with the disease. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome 2015 7(Suppl 1):A80.