Pregnancy can be hard enough – morning sickness, followed by all of those aches and pains, restless nights and weird food habits. The addition of a gestational diabetes diagnosis on top can be overwhelming, and so avoiding gestational diabetes in future pregnancies can make a big difference to both your health and your newborn’s health. What steps can you take to minimise your risk of Gestational Diabetes in your next pregnancy?
It is possible for some women to avoid gestational diabetes in future pregnancies, despite being diagnosed in the past. Currently, it's estimated that if gestational diabetes occurred in the first pregnancy, the woman has around a 50% chance of having gestational diabetes in the second, and this risk increases with every subsequent pregnancy.
Age, ethnic background and number or pregnancies are all risk factors for gestational diabetes, however, are considered non-modifiable – as we can’t really change these. There is one risk factor, however, that is modifiable – WEIGHT. More specifically it’s actually the amount of adipose (fat) tissue we carry prior and during pregnancy, which brings the biggest risk factor for recurrence.
What steps can you take to minimise your risk of Gestational Diabetes in your next pregnancy?
Studies have shown that a higher BMI (body mass index) as well as weight gain in between pregnancies increases a women’s risk of recurrence. Aiming for a small weight reduction prior to becoming pregnant, say 4-5 kgs, can be a significant benefit to women who have a BMI above 25kg/m2.
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. A diet high in non-starchy vegetables (think greens, salad veg etc.), wholegrains, legumes, lean proteins (including low fat dairy) and fruit is ideal to minimise risk of weight gain between pregnancies. Reducing intake of processed and packaged foods is a great start, as these are particularly high in sugars, refined carbohydrates and saturated fat.
Increasing activity levels, is also helpful for weight management, adding to this, resistance training can increase muscle mass and may improve insulin sensitivity. Exercise also benefits our mental wellbeing – so it’s a win-win on the activity front.
Planning for a pregnancy is the best way to ensure you’re in the best health prior to conception. Regular GP appointments are a helpful first step in planning for a future pregnancy. Your GP will be able to suggest appropriate pre pregnancy blood tests and check-ups. A catch up with your dietitian and an exercise physiologist may also be useful when planning ahead.
Just remember, there is a chance, despite doing all the right things that gestational diabetes can still occur. But remember, following a healthy diet and being active may reduce the severity of gestational diabetes, reduce the need for insulin and the risk of further complications.
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