Why all pregnant mums need to know about gestational diabetes
Making simple lifestyle changes and healthier food choices during pregnancy will support your developing baby’s extraordinary growth, while meeting your increased nutritional needs.
When you’re pregnant, you may feel like you would like to eat as much as you can, but this doesn’t mean you should eat anything you crave. Instead, it should inspire a deeper motivation to make healthier food choices. Your developing baby is dependent on you for the nutrients he needs for both physical and mental growth and development. Clearly, the type of pregnancy diet you have today greatly affects your developing baby’s future health.
In fact, studies have found that poor maternal nutritional conditions can lead to “long term health issues” for children, which include increased risk of obesity as well as abnormal levels of cholesterol and blood sugar.1 By choosing nutritious food and drink when pregnant, you are providing your developing baby with only the best.
But obviously, it’s not just your developing baby who benefits from healthy pregnancy eating habits. Choosing only healthy food and drink also helps keep your blood glucose levels at bay, thereby protecting you from conditions like pregnancy diabetes.
Do you know that one in seven births is affected by gestational diabetes2?
During pregnancy, the placenta makes hormones that prevent the insulin from working properly which can lead to a build up of glucose in your blood. Usually your pancreas can make enough insulin to handle that. If not, your blood sugar levels will rise and can cause gestational diabetes.3
Naturally, mums-to-be who are most at risk of developing this condition are those who have a history of diabetes or those who are pre-diabetic. However, pregnant mums who have developed high blood sugar during previous pregnancy, are also at risk.
If you are overweight or if you have gained too much weight during pregnancy, you should also be aware that these may lead to pregnancy diabetes. Furthermore, if you are over the age of 25 or of Asian descent, then pregnancy diabetes is more likely to occur.
For those who are not first-time mums, previously giving birth to a baby that weighed at least 9 pounds (4 kg) or having an unexplained stillbirth or miscarriages in the past are risk factors. Hormone disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can also be contributing factors. So it’s best to consult your doctor as early as possible in your pregnancy if you fall under any of the aforementioned categories.
The effects of pregnancy diabetes can manifest even before labour and delivery. Mums-to-be with diabetes tend to carry overweight or larger babies, as such they are more prone to delivering via caesarean section.5
What’s more, diabetes during pregnancy could also lead to obstructed labour, which happens when the presenting part of the fetus cannot progress into the birth canal, despite strong uterine contractions.6
Developing pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy even without a history of it, is also a risk that comes with diabetes during pregnancy.4,5 Pre-eclampsia can also cause mums to experience swelling and sudden weight gain, in some cases. Though rare, it can evolve into a more severe condition called eclampsia, which can be life threatening for both mum and developing baby, when left undiagnosed.7
Diabetes during pregnancy can translate to higher risk of long-term type-2 diabetes in the future. What’s even more worrying is that gestational diabetes can even increase the risk of preterm delivery or pregnancy loss.4
You have the power to reduce the risk of diabetes during pregnancy. By knowing which habits to avoid as well as which lifestyle changes to adopt, you can have peace of mind for a safe pregnancy journey.
If you want to know how to lower the risk of diabetes during pregnancy, simply take a look at your present lifestyle. Can your food choices be healthier? Do you consume too much sugar? WHO recommends no more than 10 teaspoons of free sugar a day during first trimester, less than 11 teaspoons during second trimester and less than 12 teaspoons during third trimester, which exclude the naturally-occurring sugars, such as those found in fruits and vegetables.
Eliminating excessive sugar intake from your pregnancy diet is one of the most important changes when it comes to managing blood sugar level during pregnancy. Mums, make sure to read the labels and to check the ingredients of any food and beverage you consume, to make sure you are not consuming too much added sugars. Learn more about why sugar can be bad for your developing baby, here.
Eating healthy means finding a balance between not depriving yourself of food you want to eat and making healthier choices. Remember that everything should be done in moderation.
According to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines, a healthy balanced diet is "a diet which provides the proper combination of energy and nutrients."
A healthy diet is defined by three key characteristics: balanced, moderation, and variety.
Balanced: A balanced diet contains a combination of foods that provide proper balance of food. The body needs many types of food in varying amounts to maintain health. Make sure to choose from the 5 food groups as per the Food Guide Pyramid. Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables and also moderate amount of meat, fish, and poultry. Make sure to limit your intake of fat, oils, and sugar.
Variety: Vary food choices within each food group when planning for your meals. By selecting a variety of foods, the chances of obtaining adequate nutrients that your body needs is optimized. Don’t forget to prepare your favorite foods in healthy ways, like steaming, grilling, baking, and boiling instead of deep frying.
Moderation: Moderation refers to eating the right amounts of foods to maintain a healthy weight and optimize the body’s metabolic process. Follow the recommended servings for the different food groups by referring to the Food Guide Pyramid below.
Aside from maintaining a healthy and balanced pregnancy diet, staying active through safe exercises — yoga, swimming, running, cycling, and dancing — is a great way to stay healthy during pregnancy. Generally, moderate exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, is recommended for mums-to-be.8 Remember to maintain a healthy weight gain. The goal of pregnancy exercises is to boost your health and not to “lose weight” or slim down when pregnant.
It is important to obtain adequate nutrition during pregnancy. You can include prenatal milk into your daily diet to support your increased nutritional needs. To do this, first check if it has all the important nutrients, such as calcium, iron, and folate, to support you and your developing baby.
You can also choose a prenatal milk that is low in fat and has no added sugars such as Anmum Materna.
Anmum Materna is specially formulated for mum-to-be and the growing baby. Just two glasses of Anmum Materna a day helps you meet 100% of nutritional needs for folate and calcium.
Practising a healthy and balanced pregnancy diet is not just for your short-term health; it can help support the extraordinary growth of your developing baby while they’re in the womb and beyond.
Anmum Materna helps mums support their little ones for the extraordinary changes ahead! Get your free samples now!
- World Health Organisation (2016) Good maternal nutrition the best start in life.
- International Diabetes Federation. (2017).
- WebMD (2017). What is gestational diabetes? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/gestational-diabetes-guide/gestational-diabetes#1
- National Institute of Health. (2012). Am I at risk for gestational diabetes?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017).
- World Health Organization http://cdrwww.who.int/healthinfo/statistics/bod_obstructedlabour.pdf
- Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/preeclampsia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355745
- ACOG (2017) Exercise during pregnancy