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Five steps to prevent gestational diabetes

Approximately 135,000 pregnant women in the U.S. develop gestational diabetes every year. Gestational diabetes is an illness in which the pregnancy interferes with the mother's insulin production or its efficient use.

Those who are most at risk for developing gestational diabetes:

  • are Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander
  • are overweight before pregnancy
  • have a family member with diabetes
  • are 25 or older
  • had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • previously had a very large baby (9 pounds or more) or a stillbirth

Below are five steps you can take to help avoid developing gestational diabetes during your pregnancy.

1. Maintain healthy body weight. Discuss with your doctor what a healthy weight is for you during your pregnancy. Post-delivery weight management tips:

  • Breastfeeding helps to get back to your normal pre-pregnancy weight.
  • If you are overweight, just losing five to seven percent of your body weight can help reduce risk. If you weigh 180 pounds, losing just nine pounds can improve your health. 
  • Bonus: Shedding some pounds will also get you in better shape for the rigors of motherhood.

2. Get regular physical activity, if your condition allows it. This can help keep your glucose levels healthy. In one study, researchers found that women who were physically active before and during their pregnancy reduced their risk by about 70 percent. The women got about four hours of physical activity per week.

  • During pregnancy, walking and swimming are good choices. Others include bicycling, yoga and low-impact aerobics.
  • Your doctor can tell you how much physical activity to aim for and how often. It depends upon your overall health.

3. Have your blood sugar tested early. Ask your doctor about your blood sugar level to see if it is on target. Have your blood sugar tested as early as three months before you get pregnant to see if it is in a normal range.

4. Include fiber in each meal such as fruits, veggies, whole-grain breads, whole-grain crackers and cereals.

5. Limit sweets. Especially sugars coming from beverages and desserts.

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