Pregnancy and Diabetes

Causes and Treatments

While the cause of diabetes is unclear, the risk factors are well known. These include:

  • A family history of diabetes
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • A history of gestational diabetes
  • A history of having a baby who weighed more than 9.5 pounds at birth
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Being of Native American, African-American, Hispanic, or Pacific Island descent

If someone is diagnosed with diabetes, regardless of type, she needs to carefully balance the amount of carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, starches, and sweets) and protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans, and dairy) in her diet, monitor her blood sugar levels, and exercise regularly. The reason? Some foods contain more sugar and break down into sugar more quickly than others. By carefully monitoring how much sugar goes into the blood through food, diabetics can more easily keep their sugar in balance. A woman with diabetes will know if she needs to change her habits -- or see her doctor -- by pricking herself to draw blood and feeding the sample into the glucose monitor, which measures blood sugar. Exercise helps by getting rid of glucose in the blood, making it easier to keep blood sugar in balance.

Unfortunately, growing numbers of women are diabetic or become diabetic during pregnancy, due in part to the rapidly expanding American waistline. Obesity is a major factor for type 2 diabetes: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 64 percent of American adults are overweight or obese. Furthermore, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is growing among younger adults. More and more women are overweight and are delaying having children, so there's an increase in the number of pregnancies complicated by diabetes, says James Bernasko, MD, director of the Diabetes in Pregnancy Education Program at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York.

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