You’ve heard it before; being physically active and eating healthfully are key habits for living a long and healthy life. It’s important that everyone—including women who are pregnant—be physically active and make healthy food choices in order to reduce health risks.
But if you have a family history of diabetes, have had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds, or are overweight or obese, there are reasons that you should pay even closer attention to this advice.
Understanding gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a type of diabetes that develops or is first recognized during pregnancy. If you develop GDM, your body can’t turn the sugar and starches from food into energy because your body has problems using its own insulin.
If you have GDM, you may:
- Develop preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure)
- Have an extra large baby that needs to be delivered by cesarean
- Need more time to recover if the baby is delivered by cesarean
- Develop type 2 diabetes later in life
You are more likely to develop GDM if you:
- Have a family history of diabetes (having a parent, sister, or brother who has diabetes)
- Have had GDM in a previous pregnancy
- Are more than 25 years old
- Have had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- Are overweight or obese
- Are African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Asian American or Pacific Islander
If you’re at risk for GDM, there are things that you can do to have a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risks of health problems. Talk with your health care team, develop a plan for physical activity, and be sure to make healthy food choices.
If you have GDM, be sure to follow your health care provider’s advice, be physically active and eat healthfully. All of these steps can help you keep your blood sugar under control and can give you the best chance for having a healthy pregnancy and birth.
Did you know that you and your baby have a lifelong risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you had GDM? Ask your health care team about the steps that you and your family can take to prevent diabetes.
Be actively involved in your health care. If you are going back to your primary health care provider after giving birth, be sure to mention whether you had GDM. Your provider can help you develop a plan to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Stay Healthy Post-Pregnancy
After your pregnancy, be sure to:
- Visit your health care provider regularly: Get tested for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after you birth your baby, and then get tested at least every 3 years thereafter.
- Take your medications: If taking medication is part of your health provider’s instructions, be sure to follow them.
- Eat healthy foods: Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. Eat more whole grains; switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk, and eat fewer salty foods.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Be physically active: Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, such as brisk walking, swimming, riding a bike or playing tennis. Choose activities that you enjoy and can fit into your day. Do activities with your children so you can be active and healthy together. Try spreading out your physical activity throughout the week.
Arianna E. Crosby, BA, is a recent graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. Michelle D. Owens-Gary, PhD, is a Behavioral Scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.