Gestational diabetes, like other types of diabetes, makes it difficult for your body’s cells to metabolize sugar properly. Your blood sugar level consequently becomes too high. What makes gestational diabetes unique is the fact that it only occurs during your baby’s gestation, i.e., during your pregnancy.

Left untreated, gestational diabetes can harm your baby, leading to such things as the following:

  • Preterm birth
  • Respiratory distress syndrome
  • Excessive birth weight
  • Stillbirth

For you, gestational diabetes can cause high blood pressure, liver or kidney damage (preeclampsia), a likelihood for a C-section and the strong possibility that you will develop Type 2 diabetes after your pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes risk factors

Unfortunately, gestational diabetes has few symptoms. You can have it and not know it. Therefore, your OB/GYN should test you for it, especially if you have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Obesity
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Previous pregnancy with gestational diabetes
  • Previous delivery of a baby weighing nine or more pounds
  • Member of a nonwhite race
  • Immediate family member with diabetes

Gestational diabetes prevention

No one knows what causes gestational diabetes or why some pregnant women develop it while others do not. Therefore, maintaining a healthy lifestyle prior to and during your pregnancy represents your wisest strategy for preventing it. Always eat healthy foods that contain few calories, little fat, and high fiber content. Starting your pregnancy at a healthy weight decreases your risk of developing gestational diabetes. Also, follow your doctor’s recommendations for weight gain during your pregnancy.

Your healthy lifestyle should include regular exercise. While you should not participate in strenuous games or activities that could harm your developing baby, moderate amounts of activity such as walking, cycling or swimming are all good ideas. Experts recommend that you exercise at least 30 minutes a day while pregnant. Even if you do no more than take the stairs instead of the elevator or park farther away from the stores where you shop, this extra exercise can make a big difference in your health while pregnant.