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So You Have Gestational Diabetes, Now What?

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Are you pregnant and recently diagnosed with gestational diabetes? You’re not alone. Almost 1 in 10 women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes during their pregnancy (1). Your doctor might have told you that this condition is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Your blood sugar, or blood glucose, is higher than normal.

What does this mean? How will this affect you and your baby? Don’t panic; your diagnosis allows you to take steps to allow you and your family to live healthy, full lives.

The first thing to consider is complications with your baby. Gestational diabetes means your baby is at relatively higher risk for complications like a large birth weight, preeclampsia, heart defects, delivery by C-section, and in some cases stillbirth and death in the first week of life (2,3). For these reasons, it’s important to visit your doctor regularly to make sure you’re taking the right precautions to ensure the best outcome.

It’s also important to gain weight healthfully while you’re pregnant. While many think pregnancy is a free pass to “eat for 2,” gaining too much weight could make your gestational diabetes worse for your future health and the health of your baby. The Institute of Medicine has this handy table for weight gain recommendations:

How Much Weight Should You Gain When You’re Pregnant

If you start your pregnancy as… You should gain…
Underweight

BMI less than 18.5

28 – 40 pounds
Normal Weight

BMI 18.5 – 24.9

25 – 35 pounds
Overweight

BMI 25.0 ­– 29.9

15 – 25 pounds
Obese

(includes all classes)

BMI greater than or equal to 30.0

11 – 20 pounds

You may be scared by your new diagnosis, but see it as a chance to improve your long-term health and optimize your baby’s growth and development. Your doctor just handed you a crystal ball showing you the window to your future; women with gestational diabetes are 7x more likely to develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years of their pregnancy (4). The good news is, the future isn’t set in stone. You have a chance to prevent diabetes and change the future.

Since you know you’re at higher risk, you can make lifestyle changes now to keep your body healthy. Exercise is especially important, even just taking a 15-30 minute brisk walk after lunch or dinner each day. You can make simple changes in your diet, too, like eating more whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables and eating less refined bread and flours. Check out Gestational Diabetes: A Family Opportunity for more lifestyle tips to keep your family healthy.

References

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/13_0415.htm
  2. Wendland EM, Torloni MR, Falavigna M, Trujillo J, Dode MA, Campos MA, et al. Gestational diabetes and pregnancy outcomes–a systematic review of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Association of Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) diagnostic criteria. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 2012;12:23. CrossRef PubMed
  3. Mahan, L., Escott-Stump, S., & Raymond, J. (2012). Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process (13th ed.). St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier/Saunders.
  4. Bellamy L, Casas JP, Hingorani AD, Williams D. Type 2 diabetes mellitus after gestational diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet 2009;373(9677):1773–9. CrossRef PubMed


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About the Author

Morgan Bookheimer is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a M.S. from Teachers College, Columbia University. She also has her B.S. in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University. Morgan enjoys cooking and yoga, and she believes healthy food should be fun, easy and delicious!


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