For many individuals, pregnancy may bring excitement and joy, but also stress. This stress may be amplified for those experiencing gestational diabetes, or elevated blood glucose during pregnancy. Implementing proper treatment and lifestyle recommendations can improve health outcomes and minimize complication risks both during and after pregnancy. While blood sugars after pregnancy often return to normal levels for most patients, individuals with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes postpartum. Obtaining and maintaining a healthy body weight, proper nutrition, planned physical activity, regular follow-up glucose testing and breastfeeding can lower this risk.
How to Lower the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Postpartum
A healthy eating plan can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight as well as balance blood glucose. Aim to eat 3 portion-controlled meals each day. Use the USDA MyPlate model to assist with mealtime balance. Consider including at least 2-3 food groups per meal such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy or dairy alternatives. Choose lean cooking methods most often, such as baking or roasting instead of frying. Remain hydrated with water or unsweetened beverages in place of sugary beverages such as lemonade, juice, or soda.
Physical activity provides many benefits to overall health including aiding in weight management and better sleep, increasing muscle mass, alleviating stress, decreasing insulin resistance and improving blood glucose levels. Muscles use sugar as an energy source, thus decreasing blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends participating in at least 30 minutes of physical activity for at least 5 days per week for best glucose control. Try dancing, chair exercises, going on a brisk walk with a friend, or following a workout video in your home. For every 30 minutes of sitting, consider walking around for at least 3 minutes to increase daily activity.
Along with providing baby with balanced nutrition and strengthening their immune health, breastfeeding can improve a mother’s ability to use insulin and control blood sugar as well as manage their body weight.
When Should I Be Tested for Type 2 Diabetes
The ADA additionally recommends that an individual who experiences gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a glucose tolerance test completed 6-8 weeks postpartum to check post-pregnancy glucose levels. It is important that all women with a history of gestational diabetes have an A1C test completed at least every 1-3 years to assess for diabetes development.
Although women who have gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing the condition again with future pregnancies, there are many steps that can be taken to lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
Learn more about CHI Health's diabetes resources.