According to a 2014 analysis, completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of gestational diabetes in the U.S. is 9.2 percent. (1) Worldwide, it is believed that 60 percent of women of reproductive age are overweight or obese. Obesity is a risk factor for complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes. (2)
Gestational diabetes and maternal obesity increase a child’s predisposition to obesity and impaired glucose regulation. (2)
As doctors and scientists have studied gestational diabetes, they found that hormones from the placenta help the baby develop, but these same hormones can also block the action of the mother’s insulin in her body. This makes it hard for the mother’s body to use insulin. Gestational diabetes occurs when the mother’s body is not able to make and use all the insulin that it needs for pregnancy. (1)
The extra blood glucose passes through the placenta, giving the baby high blood glucose levels. The baby’s pancreas then makes extra insulin to rid the body of the blood glucose. The baby will often get more energy than it needs to grow and develop, and this extra energy is stored as fat. The extra fat can make labor and delivery more difficult for the mother. (1)
Lifestyle trends that are associated with obesity could be responsible for gestational diabetes
A Finnish study was conducted from 2008-2014 with hopes to develop interventions to reduce gestational diabetes. 293 women with a history of gestational diabetes were enrolled into the study at less than 20 week gestation. Some women were randomly assigned to a control group, and other women were assigned to a group where they received counseling about their diet, physical activity assignments, and weight control education. (2)
There was a significant different in gestational diabetes between groups when tested at 24-28 weeks gestation. The intervention reduced incidence of gestational diabetes by 39% in high-risk pregnant women! (2)
Diet counseling, physical activity, and weight control was found to lower the incidence gestational diabetes in high-risk pregnant women by 39%!
If you are pregnant, eating right and regular physical activity can go a long way to achieving a healthy pregnancy. Make sure that you keep your fructose level under 25 grams per day, take a high quality omega-3 supplement, and optimize your vitamin D levels. (3)
The balance of a healthy diet, lifestyle, and appropriate supplementation will not guarantee a healthy, full-term pregnancy, but it will increase your chances and help protect the baby during stages of development.