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Nearly 10 percent of pregnant women develop what is called gestational diabetes, a condition harmful both to babies and expectant mothers. But pregnant women can lower their risk of this serious health difficulty.
A study that examined more than 14,000 women who were taking part in research called the “Nurses Health Study II,” shows that a few healthy lifestyle changes can help pregnant women control their blood sugar, lower the risk of diabetes and give birth to healthier babies.
The most important factors to help avoid this kind of diabetes involves not smoking, getting regular exercise and keeping weight down. Women in the study who were able to do all three of those reduced their risk of gestational diabetes by 41 percent.
In addition, if women kept their weight down to a healthy level even before beginning their pregnancy, didn’t smoke and were getting consistent exercise, their risk dropped by 52 percent.
In contrast, women who were overweight when they became pregnant, gained even more weight during their pregnancy, smoked and didn’t exercise, increased their risk of gestational diabetes by 83 percent compared to those who controlled all of their relevant lifestyle factors.
The researchers observe that while it can be a big challenge for women to improve their lifestyles, doing so right before and during a pregnancy “could represent an opportunity to change diet and lifestyle (and) women might be particularly motivated to adhere to advice to improve pregnancy and/or birth outcomes.”
According to researcher Sara Meltzer at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, “perhaps we can help to slow or even reverse current trends in obesity, metabolic disease, and cardiovascular risk that continue to rise steadily as part of a ‘diabetes begets diabetes’ cycle.”