Lani Telian, Department of Public Health
People are quick to give advice to expectant mothers – cut down on caffeine, avoid alcohol, take prenatal vitamins – yet there’s one topic that is often missing from the conversation. Gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy, can cause high blood sugar levels that can threaten the health of your unborn baby. According to the American Diabetes Association, this condition affects about 135,000 pregnant women in the U.S. each year.
Gestational diabetes is more likely to occur in women who:
- are older than 25 years
- are overweight
- had gestational diabetes before
- had a very large baby (over 9 pounds)
- have a family history of diabetes
- are Native American, Asian, Hispanic, African American, or Pacific Islander
- have polycystic ovary syndrome
But there's good news. You can manage gestational diabetes by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and, if necessary, taking medication. Taking good care of yourself can help ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and a healthy start for your baby.
Women with a history of gestational diabetes have a much higher risk of developing diabetes during the 5 to 10 years after they deliver. If you had gestational diabetes, it is important to be tested 6 to 12 weeks after the baby is born, and at least every 3 years after that. Women may be able to prevent getting gestational or type 2 diabetes in the future by reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy foods, and getting regular physical activity.
Mothers aren’t the only ones affected by this condition. Children of women with a history of gestational diabetes are at greater risk for obesity, which puts them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Women with a history of gestational diabetes can help their entire family stay at a healthy weight by providing healthy meals and snacks, and encouraging their families to be physically active.
Remember, if you had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, you have a lifelong risk for getting diabetes. Be sure to talk to your doctor about preventing diabetes, getting tested, and how you and your child can have a healthy lifestyle. To learn more about eating better and moving more check out Mass in Motion; visit the Tips for Parents page.