Gestational diabetes is on the rise and now affects about 6-8% of pregnancies. Diabetes UK suggests that even then, many go undetected, so it may even be higher!
Gestational diabetes in most cases can be prevented with some knowledge before conception, and by following some rules when you are pregnant.
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What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is when a woman cannot produce enough insulin to keep the sugar in her blood stream at healthy levels during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is the name given to this temporary condition.
Pregnancy naturally causes some insulin resistance (1) which ensures that your body puts on some fat storage while you are pregnant.
This is to famine-proof your body during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Unfortunately in modern society many women already live with insulin resistance, inducing all women with PCOS!
When a woman already has insulin resistance, or already has a borderline high blood sugar level, the additional increase from pregnancy, pushes you over the threshold into diabetes.
After the pregnancy hormones have settled down, (most) women will return to their normal levels of blood sugar and insulin, though 90% of women that get gestational diabetes will go on to develop type two diabetes later in life.
6 Risks for Developing Gestational Diabetes
Some groups of women are at much greater risk of developing GD, however, some women do develop it without any of these risk factors.
1. Previous Insulin Resistance
If you have had a positive result on an insulin resistance blood test, even if you improve this with lifestyle factors, you remain a higher risk for GD.
2. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Women with PCOS are at a particular risk of developing GD. This is because all women with PCOS already have issues with insulin resistance.
3. Being Overweight
Not all women who are overweight are insulin resistant although most are. Not all women of a normal weight are not insulin resistant, but there is a strong correlation between weight and insulin resistance status.
4. Eating a High Carbohydrate, Low Fat Diet
If you are used to eating a high carbohydrate, low fat diet, you are at much greater risk of developing gestation diabetes while you are pregnant if you continue to eat this way.
This includes diets that are full of ‘healthy whole grains’ and anyone that follows the current American Food Pyramid.
5. Your Heritage
According to this study women who are from Hispanic, Asian or Pacific heritage are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes.
If this is you, it is super important that you are aware of what you should be doing to prevent it developing.
6. Maternal Age
After the age of 25 risk of GD becomes significantly and progressively increased.
4 Ways to Prevent Gestational Diabetes Naturally
There’s only so many things that you can do to reduce your risk of gestational diabetes – some women will develop it regardless of how amazing their lifestyle is.
But, there are some simple changes that you can make that will naturally make gestational diabetes less likely:
1. Be a healthy weight before conception
This is one of the singularly most effective thing that you can do to avoid developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Your risk of having insulin resistance is much lower the closer you are to a normal, healthy weight.
2. Have your babies young
I know this goes against what is really happening these days and it is probably too little, too late for giving you advice, but the younger you have your babies, the less risk you have of developing gestational diabetes.
3. Stay active
Daily exercise of just 30 minutes per day helps to normalize your blood glucose levels and decrease insulin resistance.
Weight and strength training is very effective at reducing insulin resistance over the long term.
4. Follow a low carb diet
Following a low carb diet both before and during pregnancy is probably the most profound thing that you can do to reduce your risk and impact of gestational diabetes on you and your baby.
5. Monitor your blood glucose
If you are worried about developing GD one of the best things you can do is check your blood sugars several times a day intermittently.
A fasting glucose in the morning, as soon as you wake up and again 2 hours after eating would be enough to give your health care provider a good idea of how your body is responding to food that you are eating.
You can easily get a blood glucose monitor kit for very cheaply. Early detection is the next best thing to total prevention with gestational diabetes.
The best way to eat to reduce the risk of Gestational Diabetes
1 Eat natural fat
That is right – FAT. Traditional diets include a lot of natural fats. Natural, healthy fats are those that occur naturally – lard, butter, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil.
You should avoid commercial oils like soy, corn, canola and all trans-fats (margarine and fried foods).
Thirty percent or more of your diet should be made up of healthy fats. Eating fats does not make you fat, it trains your body to burn fats.
If this is contrary to everything you believe, please read this.
2 Eat veggies, skip the fruit
Eating vegetables full of fibre, help to slow down the release of sugar and they give you the nutrients you need to grow a healthy baby.
Fruit on the other hand is full of fructose and will spike your blood sugars and raise your insulin.
3 Low sugar fruits like berries
We are naturally drawn to fruit because of its sweetness, however natural sugar is still sugar. Stick to vegetables and very low sugar fruits like berries as a treat.
4 Eat some protein and fat with every meal or snack
Eating protein and fat will help to slow down your body’s release of the carbohydrates as glucose in to your blood stream and help keep your insulin levels nice and steady.
Also you will feel less hungry as they provide longer, sustained energy.
Preventing gestational diabetes naturally
This is a condition that seems to be largely related to our culture and specifically our diets both pre- and during pregnancy.
Eating a traditional diet that is low in grains and high in natural fats is the best thing you can do for you and your baby to prevent gestational diabetes.