Gestational Diabetes: What you don’t know can hurt you

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Don’t look now, but someone you love may be suffering from diabetes. This “silent killer” affects almost 30 million Americans with almost 1.5 million new cases of diabetes appearing every year. But the most alarming statistic is that over eight million of us are undiagnosed. The health community is rallying to build awareness of the growing risks of diabetes and develop improved treatments.

But what about gestational diabetes? Most people tend to be a bit cavalier about this form of diabetes that targets a specific portion of the community and often remedies itself after the woman gives birth. This couldn’t be “real” diabetes, could it? The truth is, if left untreated, gestational diabetes can produce permanent damage.

What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes occurs exclusively in pregnant women, and they can be diagnosed with gestational diabetes having no history of diabetes at all. “Unlike Type 1 and 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes is caused in part by physiological changes that occur during pregnancy and affects one in 10 pregnant women,” explains Christina Sherry, PhD, RD, a nutrition scientist with Abbott. “During pregnancy, hormones can reduce or block the effectiveness of mom’s insulin,” she says. Other risk factors like being overweight, having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or having a family history of Type 2 diabetes can increase the chances of developing gestational diabetes.

In many cases, symptoms often mirror those of normal pregnancy. But many mothers note extreme fatigue and nausea (especially after eating sugary foods), frequent urination, persistent thirst, and abnormal water retention.

Simple ways to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes
Although we enjoy being pampered during pregnancy, regular exercise and smart eating habits provide a healthy environment for you and your unborn baby. Coupled with daily exercise, here are three simple ways to control the risks of GD.

1. Eat low-glycemic foods.
Doctors agree that whether you are pregnant or want to be in the near future, it’s never too late to change your diet. “Make an effort to include foods that don’t cause sharp rises in your blood sugar and those that have slowly digestible carbs,” says Ricardo Rueda, MD, PhD, a research fellow at Abbott. “Doing so lowers your risk of gestational diabetes and, for your baby, it lowers the risk of future obesity.” Reach for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean cuts of meat, and nonfat dairy products.

2. Stay hydrated.
Drinking plenty of water is an essential part of good health. Although it seems our bladder is working overtime during pregnancy, making sure to drink water throughout the day is vital to keeping our system running smoothly. The health experts at Abbott warn that if you don’t drink enough water, dehydration can quickly zap your energy. Be sure to keep a refillable bottle handy and try adding lemon, cucumber, or fresh mint to your water to add a delicious, festive zip. You deserve some special treatment, right?

Related link: 3 things you should know about diabetes

3. Don’t forget the fiber.
Fortunately, adding whole-grain foods to our diet also adds flavor. Try using brown rice in your favorite dishes, and eating oatmeal and whole-grain toast for breakfast. Whole grains add the fiber necessary for digestive health and nutrients like magnesium boost organ and bone health.

There is so much to do to prepare for your new arrival. But the first thing on your to-do list should be maintaining good health. By watching for early signs of gestational diabetes, exercising, and eating right, you can be sure you and your baby will begin your lives together enjoying a bright future of good health.

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