Medical Memo: Getting Real about Gestational Diabetes & Postpartum Tips

Wellness is generally the state or condition of being in good physical and mental health, including  things like a balanced diet, exercise regimen and, for many new Mamas, a good ole’ fashioned break. But as we all know, focus on our own personal health can often fall by the wayside as we divert 100% of our attention (and concern) to our family.

Our bodies change after having a baby, thus it’s important to stay well-informed following your own unique pregnancy experiences. While I was not personally diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (GDM), I know many women who have been (and the numbers are rising), so below are some useful tips on how to manage postpartum, from a Registered Nurse & Certified Diabetes Educator, Jessica Grady.

Grady, Jessica

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before, but who have high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes (GDM). According to a 2014 analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of GDM is as high as 9.2%. We don’t know exactly what causes GDM, but we have some clues. The placenta supports the baby as it grows. Hormones from the placenta help the baby develop. BUT these hormones also block the action of the mother’s insulin in her body. This problem is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance makes it hard for the mother’s body to use insulin. She may need up to THREE times as much insulin!

Gestational diabetes starts when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy (usually in late pregnancy). Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy, so glucose builds up in the blood to high levels. While gestational diabetes can have negative effects on both you and your baby, these can be prevented with diet, exercise and sometimes insulin. After you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you are at increased risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes down the road.

Postpartum To Do’s: Preventing Type 2 Diabetes after GDM

  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight. According to the Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes, this means maintaining a BMI <25 or <23 if you are Asian American. Don’t know your BMI? Use the CDC’s free BMI calculator here. Try to reach your pre-pregnancy weight 6 to 12 months after your baby is born. Then, if you still have more to lose, work to drop at least 5 to 7% of your body weight and keep it off. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, losing 10 to 14 pounds can greatly reduce your chance of getting Type 2 diabetes later on.
  • Get Movin’ Mama! According to The Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms). The best and most sustainable exercise goals are ones that are realistic and attainable. So try to make this something you ENJOY and that works with your schedule, so you can stick to it. As always, consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.
  • Eat your veggies!…well sort of. During an age when there are more diets and information about food available than ever, believe it or not, the jury is still out on which is truly the best in preventing diabetes. Research has shown that a variety of eating patterns can accomplish this. So whether it’s plant-based (vegan or vegetarian), Mediterranean-style, gluten-free, paleo or some mix of all of these, pick one that works for you. Just make sure whatever you pick your body is getting the amount of calories it needs to gain, lose or maintain your weight (depending on your goals) and all the key nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to stay healthy and strong for you!
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