Preventing gestational diabetes

What causes gestational diabetes?

Unfortunately, gestational diabetes can’t always be avoided. Even if you are a healthy weight, run marathons and steer clear of all processed foods you could still end up being diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

The main things that increase your risk of developing gestational diabetes are:

  • A family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Certain ethnic backgrounds, including Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Middle Eastern or Polynesian
  • Having gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies
  • Being above the healthy weight range
  • Have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Being over 35
  • Unexplained stillbirth or neonatal deaths or having previously given birth to a very large baby
  • Some types of anti-psychotic or steroid medications.

Most of these things can’t be changed. However, it’s good to know which ones affect you so that you can focus on the things that are in your control. If you’re planning a pregnancy, it’s a good idea to chat with your GP about your risk of gestational diabetes. They can guide you with how to prevent it in your individual situation.

Preventing gestational diabetes through healthy weight

If you are overweight, it is a good idea to try to lose some weight before falling pregnant. This will greatly reduce your risk of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. You can do this through making changes to the foods you eat, and by doing more physical activity.

If you have fallen pregnant already and you are overweight that’s okay. Don’t try and lose weight during pregnancy. This isn’t good for you or your baby. It is important though to try and keep your pregnancy weight gain within a healthy range. Your GP can help you work out how much weight gain during pregnancy is best for you.

Avoiding too much extra weight gain, especially in the first two trimesters will greatly reduce your risk of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

For tailored advice on healthy eating in pregnancy you may find it useful to speak to a dietitian. Search for a local dietitian or give our helpline a call for more information on preventing gestational diabetes.

I’ve had gestational diabetes before? Will I get it again?

If you had gestational diabetes in an earlier pregnancy, studies suggest you are 30-60% more likely to be diagnosed in a future pregnancy. It is a good idea to see your GP to be checked for type 2 diabetes before becoming pregnant a second time.

When you do fall pregnant again, your GP might ask you to start monitoring your blood glucose levels even before you have had the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The OGTT is where you drink the sugary drink and have a blood test. It is not uncommon for your GP to offer you an early OGTT test at around 12-16 weeks, and then again at around 26 weeks.

Not everyone who experiences gestational diabetes in their first pregnancy will get a diagnosis the second time around. You might enjoy this post from Zoe Foster Blake who had gestational diabetes and pregnancy-induced osteitis pubis in her first pregnancy – but not her second.

Having gestational diabetes a second time

If you do get diagnosed for a second time it can be very upsetting. Gestational diabetes is an extra thing to carry on top of chasing around after your first born, coping with work and whatever else life throws at you.

Try to stay positive – on the plus side you have experience. You already know how to manage the testing, and potentially what foods to avoid to keep your blood glucose levels in target. You may also get extra scans to check on your bub – which is one silver lining!

Diabetes Queensland offers a Gestational Diabetes Support Service to provide you with additional support for a healthy pregnancy and connect you with others living with gestational diabetes. Find out more.

Join our community of over 33,000 people living with diabetes