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How to prevent gestational diabetes

Updated: Apr 26, 2023


Gestational diabetes is usually a diagnosis of elevated blood sugar after taking a Glucose Challenge or Tolerance Test around 24-28 weeks of pregnancy.


"Every year, 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States are affected by gestational diabetes. Managing gestational diabetes will help make sure you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby." - Center for Disease Control (CDC)


Hormones present during pregnancy can make some women more insulin-resistant or unable to process insulin as well. This can present a problem especially for those who enter pregnancy with PCOS or are pre-diabetic. So, what can you do to prevent gestational diabetes (GDM)?


GET YOUR A1C & VITAMIN D CHECKED

You can find out whether or not you have blood sugar issues prior to pregnancy to see if you are at a higher risk. If you are already pregnant, this can easily be added to your routine initial labwork. The wonderful thing about testing early is that you have time to do something about it before your Glucose Challenge Test later in pregnancy. "One study that measured average blood sugar in early pregnancy via a test called hemoglobin A1c (or just A1c for short), found that an elevated first trimester A1c was 98.4% specific for detecting gestational diabetes." (Diabetes Care. 2014)


Sufficient vitamin D before 20 weeks of pregnancy has been shown to be a protective factor for gestational diabetes mellitus. Ask your Care Provider to test your Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D > 20 ng/mL can reduce the risk of GDM. The protective effect of vitamin D is more significant in pregnant women with a high BMI. - Yue, CY., Ying, CM. Sufficience serum vitamin D before 20 weeks of pregnancy reduces the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. Nutr Metab (Lond)17, 89 (2020).


EAT MORE PROTEIN, AIM FOR 75 grams IN EARLY PREGNANCY

Your pancreas, the organ that produces insulin, undergoes dramatic changes in pregnancy as it prepares to pump out at least triple the amount of insulin (this is to overcome the innate insulin resistance of late pregnancy). In order to do this, the pancreas needs enough of certain amino acids, suggesting that inadequate protein consumption during the first trimester is a risk factor for gestational diabetes. (Nat Med. 2010)


MOVE YOUR BODY

'Physical activity can lower your blood sugar up to 24 hours or more after your workout by making your body more sensitive to insulin.' - American Diabetes Association


It is really important during pregnancy that you have regular activity. Moving your body not only helps you regulate your blood sugar, but it also helps your baby get into an ideal position for birth and it helps ensure you have more stamina for a longer labor. If you hate going to the gym, try adding in scenic walks, dance parties, gardening or swimming.


TAKE SUPPLEMENTS

These supplements have shown great promise in reducing the risk of gestational diabetes and even helping to control/lower blood sugar for those with gestational diabetes. Simply adding a probiotic has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, fasting glucose and inflammation.


Probably the most convincing of this group is Myo-Inositol. "Myo-inositol at 2 g two times per day reduces the incidence of gestational diabetes by 65.0%–87.3%." British Medical Journal


Cinnamon Bark has also been well studied and shown to reduce glucose levels amongst those with Diabetes (American Diabetes Association). During pregnancy, the USDA states eating up to 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon per day is considered safe.


If you are interested in taking these supplements, I have a whole protocol with instructions and glucose monitoring sheets available at Fullscript. Simply create a login, download your handouts and purchase your supplements.


For more fantastic information about preventing and managing Gestational Diabetes, visit https://lilynicholsrdn.com for some evidence-based guidance, courses, blogs posts and books.


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