New Study Highlights Why We Need To Understand Gestational Diabetes Better

by Vanessa Taylor

Diet and exercise seem to be the go-to recommendation for preventing, or combatting, a lot of health conditions, like gestational diabetes. The advice is so common and generally good for overall health, people don't always question it. But, according to a new study, changing your diet and exercise may not prevent gestational diabetes after all, Rather, researchers are suggesting that it's now time to re-evaluate this first-line strategy.

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy in women who didn't already have diabetes. According to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, about 2 to 10 percent of pregnancies in the United States are affected by it. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after a baby is born, but moms should have their blood sugar checked after delivery and again in six weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Things like changing your diet diet and increasing daily exercise can help you manage gestational diabetes, as noted by the CDC, but as this new research suggests, they don't seem to have anything to do with preventing it.

A new Pennington Biomedical study worked with more than 5,000 pregnant woman in clinical trials over the past five years, and now, according to Science Daily, they say the first-line strategy isn't working.

The clinical trials focused on limiting weight gain in order to prevent gestational diabetes, as MedicalXpress reported. And the results? According to MedicalXpress, the expectant mothers improved their diet quality, ate less, and increased their exercise — but they still developed gestational diabetes at about the same rates as women who didn't change their diet or activity levels.

Leanne Redman, director of LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center's Reproductive Endocrinology and Women's Health Lab said of the findings, according to Science Daily: "Our data suggest that in pregnancy, energy balance — the calories consumed versus the calories burned — may not determine the development of gestational diabetes." She continued, "We and others now believe that there are different types of gestational diabetes that warrant different approaches to treatment and prevention."

For example, Jasper Most, co-lead author of the study, explained, according to MedicalXpress, some women may develop gestational diabetes because their pancreas doesn't adapt adequately to producing additional insulin to match the demand of pregnancy. Additionally, the outlet noted that some may develop gestational diabetes because their muscles and livers become more insulin resistant.

"Preventing gestational diabetes is not as simple as reducing weight gain," Most said, as reported by Science Daily. "It may require more individualized approaches based on each person's risk factors."

According to the Mayo Clinic, some broader risk factors for gestational diabetes include being older than 25 years of age or a family or persona history of diabetes. In addition, the Mayo Clinic wrote that, for unclear reasons, women of color are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Ultimately, according to Medical Xpress, the researchers noted that the study highlighted the need to better understand how gestational diabetes develops in obese women.

Diet and exercise may help people who have gestational diabetes in ways previously believed, but this study makes it clear that they aren't adequate suggestions for prevention. With this in mind, your best course of action is to bring your concerns your doctor until more research is done.

After a very frustrating first birth experience, this Deaf mother wanted a change. Will the help of two Deaf doulas give the quality communication and birth experience this mom wants and deserves? Watch Episode Four of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes.