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Gestational Diabetes and your Future
Doctors have found that women with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing future diabetes. While this may sound like bad news, it also means that pregnancy provides an opportunity to learn about your overall health and opt for lifestyle changes that can improve your chances for a healthy future.

Gestational diabetes is a pregnancy condition marked by elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance. It affects about 7 percent of all pregnancies. Following pregnancy, 5 to 10 percent of women with gestational diabetes develop diabetes (usually type 2) when their pregnancy ends. Additionally, women with a history of gestational diabetes have a 20 to 50 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years of their pregnancy.

If you have gestational diabetes, your doctor will likely recommend diabetes testing six weeks after delivery. If the result is normal, you should plan on having screening tests every one to three years.

If you were diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you can optimize your future health by following the recommendations below:

Be physically active. Regular exercise is a terrific way to combat insulin resistance. Whether or not you lose weight, keeping active is a great way to lower your blood sugar and increase your sensitivity to insulin. Aerobic exercise and strength training are both beneficial.

Eat lots of fiber and few sweets. A healthy diet emphasizes fresh vegetables and fruits, lean protein sources and whole grains. You should avoid refined grains, high-fat foods and concentrated sugars, such as those found in desserts, fruit juices and sweetened beverages. Eat plenty of fiber, which may improve blood sugar control and promote weight loss by helping you feel full. High-fiber choices include fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Lose excess weight. Perhaps the most important way to prevent diabetes is by maintaining or achieving a healthy weight. If you're overweight, even modest weight loss coupled with regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing diabetes. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) found that women can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes by losing 5 to 7 percent of their body weight through increased physical activity and a low fat, low-calorie eating plan.

Make it a family affair. If you were diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your child has an increased risk of obesity and diabetes during childhood and adolescence. It's never too early to feed your child healthy foods and model an active lifestyle. You'll be encouraging your youngster to develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

If you've been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you cannot change your diagnosis. However, by following these recommendations you'll be taking steps toward a healthier future.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist