Years ago it was common for women to indulge their food cravings during pregnancy, and usually without ill effect. Now it is vital that women of childbearing age understand the importance of good nutrition before pregnancy and how to decrease their risk of diabetes during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes occurs in about four percent of pregnant women. Unfortunately, since so many more young women are now overweight or obese, we are likely to see this complication of pregnancy increase—just as type 2 in the general population is increasing.
Gestational diabetes occurs when the hormones of pregnancy increase insulin resistance, allowing blood glucose levels to rise too high. It is important to keep in mind that many overweight women already have insulin resistance that may only get worse during pregnancy, leading to diabetes. Controlling the quantity and quality of carbohydrates in the diet can have a positive effect on insulin and blood glucose balance.
Prevention Is Always Best
The time for a woman planning a family to normalize her weight is before she becomes pregnant. The Atkins Lifestyle is an effective option.
Women must never attempt to lose weight during pregnancy. The goal is to eat whole, unprocessed foods packed with nutrients in the amount that allows for a normal weight gain. These are the very foods recommended for the Atkins Lifestyle and other low-carb plans.
Women carrying excess weight are generally told to gain less during pregnancy than a woman who is already at a healthy weight.
Pregnant women can use the later phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach to control weight gain and to meet doctor’s guidelines.
Acceptable food choices include proteins, dairy foods, vegetables, fruits, legumes and, for some women, unrefined whole grains. Foods with added sugars or refined flour should be avoided. The allowable foods are high in nutritional value and can go a long way to stabilize blood glucose and insulin levels and to control weight gain.
After delivery, gestational diabetes will usually resolve. However, now that there are more overweight women in the population, we are likely to see more women who remain diabetic after delivery, especially if they gain significant weight while pregnant.
It’s Not Just About Weight
For women planning to conceive, in addition to normalizing their weight, before becoming pregnant it’s important to take a multivitamin containing folic acid to decrease the risk of neural tube defects in the developing fetus. Consume foods high in folic acid that are lower in carbohydrates. Good choices are spinach, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, peanuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, asparagus, lentils, poultry, pork and shellfish.
Staying Active Is Also Important
You can invest in your own health and your baby’s by making positive lifestyle changes before conception and continuing them throughout your pregnancy.
Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- Over 35 years of age
- History of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
- Acanthosis nigricans—dark, velvety patches of skin at skin folds
- Ethnicity—Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders are at a higher risk
- Previous gestational diabetes or having a previous baby weighing over 9 pounds