How to Avoid Being One of 6 Australian Women Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes

Having a baby is such an exciting and busy time in your life, but with it comes various new changes to your body and risks associated with them. In Australia alone, gestational diabetes was diagnosed in over 17% of women who gave birth during 2021–22, amounting to 53,900 cases, a form of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy.

Given how common Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is, it’s likely that you have either heard of it or know someone who has it. Perhaps you are worried that you might get it, however either way chances are that if you are reading this article, you are now trying to figure out what you can do about it…

So here at Precision Physio, we have developed this straightforward post for you about GDM and how exercise can be of so much benefit in the fight against it!

What is Diabetes? 

Diabetes is a metabolic condition where there is too much sugar in the blood. It occurs when the body cannot make enough insulin, or insulin is not functioning in the body to facilitate sugar uptake.

Gestational Diabetes is when diabetes develops while you’re pregnant and usually goes away after the baby is born. When you are pregnant you will already go through a natural state of insulin resistance, which limits sugar uptake.

Put simply – The keys that unlock the door for sugar to be taken from the blood no longer work!

To prevent any further complications, chances are that you will complete an oral glucose tolerance test at round the 24-28 weeks mark, to find out if you require further intervention.

AVOID gestational DIABETES - Precision Physio

The Stats

So, what do we know about the numbers?

  • 1 in 6 women in Australia will develop Gestational Diabetes
  • You have a 17.9-20% chance of GDM following pregnancies
  • The risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) later in life increases with GDM, 40-60% will have T2DM within 10 years
  • Only 3 in 10 pregnant women get enough exercise
The Risk Factors

What to look out for, or what factors place you at higher risk:

  • Over 30 years old
  • Overweight
  • Gestational diabetes in the past
  • Previous elevated blood glucose levels
  • Maternal age >25yrs
  • Pre-pregnancy weight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Medications
  • Family history of GDM or T2DM
  • Have PCOS
  • You are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian, a Pacific Islander, from the Indian subcontinent or Asian.

How to Reduce the Risks of Gestational Diabetes

If you are unsure where to start, we’d strongly recommend that you book an appointment with either an Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist, Dietitian or GP and you can be provided with individual guidance. That said, here are 4 great ways to start to reduce the risk:

  1. Healthy Eating
    • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
    • Drink 1.5-2L of water a day
    • Limit alcohol, takeaway, energy drinks and soft drinks
  2. Physical Activity
    • At least 30min of aerobic activity at a moderate intensity 5 x week
    • 2 x week of strength training
  3. Regular GP appt
    • Every 2 years have a check-up if you have had GDM in the past

Exercise is SAFE during Pregnancy!

If you are unsure where to start, we’d strongly recommend that you book an appointment with either an Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist or GP and you can be provided with individual guidance.

However, research shows that there are benefits to be gained from exercising pre-pregnancy, during your pregnancy and post pregnancy, benefits that include reducing significantly your risk of GDM and the risk of T2DM in the future!

Exercise creates locks that can be opened by the keys to help uptake sugar!!

How much Exercise for reducing the risk of GDM

  • 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 3-4 x week. This can be a simple as a brisk walk!!

It is safe to follow the healthy adult exercise guidelines while pregnant (unless told otherwise):

  • 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity 5 x week.
  • 2 x week of moderate intensity resistance training.

If you have been told otherwise, follow your health professional’s recommendation.

What are the benefits of Exercise

Here are some of the things that you can hope to gain:

  • Physical activity pre-pregnancy appears most effective for GDM prevention
  • Fasting blood glucose levels decreased with the adequate exercise
  • Cardiovascular training: reduces blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol levels and more
  • Healthy baby weight
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced risk of PND
  • Reduced lower back pain
  • Increased muscle strength and endurance
  • May improve your ability to cope with labour
  • Improves your mood
  • Increases energy

The Exercise Considerations

Before you throw yourself into a new exercise regime, please consider:

  1. It is best to consult with a health professional to help you get started
  2. Exercise has been shown to have a relatively low risk of adverse events
  3. BGL can drop quicker in pregnancy, so your ability to monitor your levels is important
  4. Your timing with insulin therapy with exercise

This blog was written by Mikaela Sultana, former Exercise Physiologist at Precision Physio – St Marys. If you would like more information, or work specifically with our team at St Marys, you can contact us online at Precision Physio St Marys clinic 02 9623 2220 or book in online.

Book an appointment

We’re taking the health of our clients, members and staff very seriously and our preference would be for you to call to book an appointment so that we can make sure to explain our approach to keeping you safe. You also can call any of these numbers to schedule a session:

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