There aren’t many pregnant women who enjoy the dreaded glucose test, which checks for gestational diabetes at about five months into pregnancy. Besides being an unpleasant test to undergo, women often feel anxiety that they might have to deal with gestational diabetes for the rest of their pregnancy, and many do. Nearly 10% of pregnant women in the US now suffer from gestational diabetes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But a new study published in the recent edition BMJ shows that a healthy lifestyle before pregnancy greatly reduces a woman’s risk of developing gestational diabetes during their pregnancy.
4 Healthy Lifestyle Factors
The study, headed by researcher Dr. Cuilin Zhang from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, analyzed data from the renowned Nurses II Health Study. It looked specifically at data from over 14,437 women who had given birth sometime between 1989 and 2001. Researchers were examining if lifestyle factors influenced a woman’s chances of developing gestational diabetes.
The study found that women who had four healthy lifestyle factors prior to pregnancy were 83% less likely to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. These four factors were:
1) Being a Nonsmoker
2) Eating Well: A healthy diet was defined as having high intakes of vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains, as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega3-fatty acids. These diets also had lower intakes of red and processed meats, sugary beverages, trans-fats and sodium.
3) Having a Healthy Body Weight: A BMI of 25 or less had the greatest influence on lowering a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes. Learn more about how to calculate your BMI.
4) Regular Exercise: Regular exercise was defined as at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week.
Having just one healthy lifestyle factor prior to pregnancy lowered the risk of gestational diabetes, but having a combination of factors resulted in an even greater reduction of risk.
Risks of Gestational Diabetes
Women with unchecked gestational diabetes are at a much higher risk for complications during labor and delivery, including:
- Large birth weight and hypoglycemia in baby
- C-section delivery
- Preterm Birth
- High blood pressure (preeclampsia) in mother
Women with gestational diabetes are also seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes five to ten years following birth. Learn more about gestational diabetes by reading our overview on the condition.
Talk to Your Pregnancy Doctor
The study highlights the importance of women successfully managing their health prior to pregnancy. A pre-pregnancy checkup with an OB/GYN can help a woman identify areas that she can improve prior to conception.
At Gainesville’s All About Women, our pregnancy doctors and midwives are here to help you manage whatever challenges you may face at all stages of pregnancy, from preconception through the postpartum period. Contact our expert teams at our Gainesville or Lake City office to start the discussion about your pregnancy journey.