Life with Diabetes

5 Health Habits for Women Who Had Gestational Diabetes to Monitor

Even though gestational diabetes, diabetes that temporarily develops during pregnancy, can resolve after childbirth, women who had gestational diabetes face a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other health issues later in life. This elevated risk remained even among women who didn’t develop diabetes after gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy in women who don’t already have diabetes.

Studying Ways to Keep Diabetes at Bay

Finding ways to help women with a history of gestational diabetes lower their risk of diabetes in the future is a priority for clinicians and researchers. 

A study published in the British Medical Journal followed 4,275 women who had gestational diabetes in hopes of findings some answers or clues about who went on to develop diabetes and what might help curb the risk. The women were followed for a median of nearly 28 years. They were asked to periodically report their weight, as well as health behaviors known to play a favorable or not so favorable role in diabetes risk. One in five women developed type 2 diabetes during study follow up.

5 Lifestyle Health Habits That Make a Difference

Not surprisingly, it turns out that five healthy lifestyle habits were tied to a lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes:

  1. Being a healthy weight
  2. Eating a high quality, nutritious diet
  3. Getting regular activity (150 minutes of more of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of more of rigorous exercise)
  4. Limiting alcohol
  5. Not smoking

The study also found that the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes was further lowered for each positive lifestyle change reported. Researchers said the results held true and remained significant, even among women who were overweight or obese or who had a family or genetic history of type 2 diabetes.

What’s striking is that women who reported that they maintained all five healthy lifestyle habits had a 90% lower risk of developing diabetes compared with women who didn’t follow or adopt any of these habits.

More About Gestational Diabetes

  • If you or someone you know has gestational diabetes, you’re not alone. 
    • It is estimated to affect as many as 1 in 10 pregnancies in the U.S. every year.
    • Work with your doctor to come up with a plan and maintain a healthy pregnancy through birth. Be sure to ask questions and share concerns.
  • There may not be any obvious symptoms aside from being thirstier or having to urinate more often. That’s why testing is done sometime between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, and earlier if you already are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Remember that even though gestational diabetes may resolve after giving birth, it remains an important risk factor for diabetes, heart, and vascular disease later in life.
    • Expect to be screened at 4–12 weeks post-partum as well as every 1–3 years for diabetes.
    • Just like high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you should always mention having had gestational diabetes when giving your health care providers your health history. 
    • About half of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But there are steps you can take to prevent it. 

Learn more about gestational diabetes and having a healthy pregnancy though birth.

Written by Amanda Crowe