Gestational Diabetes is an early warning sign of diabetes – half the people who have this end up developing diabetes

Wishing Happy Mother’s Day to all the super moms out there watching over us from the eyes on the back of their heads!

Isn’t it a pity that sometimes they miss seeing glaring warnings for their own health despite those extra set of eyes!?

Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth. However, about 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

What causes gestational diabetes?

The placenta which connects the baby to the mother’s blood supply produces various hormones which can impair the action of insulin in cells, raising blood sugar. It is more common in the second half of pregnancy. It can affect the pregnancy and the baby’s health.

How to manage future health risks associated with gestational diabetes?

Managing gestational diabetes during pregnancy is a short-term problem which the gynecologist can guide for. But managing future health risks of this condition calls for lifestyle changes which mothers should be aware of and put into practice. Good news is that you can decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes after having had gestational diabetes in the following ways

1.    FOOD CHOICES TO DECREASE RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES

  • Choose whole grains, natural foods, and less processed grains/foods
  • More fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts
  • Choose poultry and seafood more often than red meat. Bake, broil or grill instead of frying.
  • Reduce potato, rice, noodles, starchy foods.
  • Choose fresh fruits over canned/frozen, juices.
  • Enjoy veg meals a few times per week.
  • Make plain water your primary beverage instead of sweet tea, lemonade, soda, and fruit juices

2.    KEY EXERCISE STRATEGIES

A study showed that people with pre-diabetes who lost 5-7% of their body weight and exercised a minimum of 150 minutes per week decreased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%. 

Exercise helps to utilize insulin effectively. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week for the best benefits, but even less is still better than no exercise!

  • Start slowly and gradually build up exercise, making it a daily routine.
  • Break exercise into smaller segments spread throughout the day, such as a 5-minute brisk walk to work, 5-minute walk at lunch, and 20 minutes exercise while watching TV.
  • No elevator to fitness

3.    REGULAR CHECKUPS

These are needed since type 2 diabetes usually develops gradually without symptoms

  1. Get blood sugar levels tested 6-12 weeks after the baby is born.
  2. Women who have had gestational diabetes should have their blood sugar levels tested once a year. In India sugar tests like FBS and PPBS cost as little as Rs.100 and can save you a fortune on dealing with undiagnosed diabetes later
  3. Breastfeeding the child not only helps you in losing weight, but it also helps in decreasing blood sugar levels.
  4. Talk to the doctor before planning the next pregnancy since you are at higher risk for developing gestational diabetes.
  5. Tell your child’s doctor if you had gestational diabetes.
  6. Keep up healthy habits for a lifetime to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

Changes in food and exercise habits can prevent or delay diabetes onset by at least 10 years.

Everyone says nothing is lost until your mother can’t find it. Mothers need to keep their own health intact because once lost, it is something they themselves may not get back!

Credits: CDC, Mayo Clinic, Diabetesforecast.org, NCBI, The Lancet

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Ashwini Bhat

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