- Women who exercise regularly before pregnancy have a lower risk of developing gestational diabetes
- Gestational diabetes is when a woman develops diabetes during the latter half of pregnancy
- The chances of developing type 2 diabetes after child birth is higher among women with gestational diabetes
The risk of gestational diabetes was lower in women who were fit before pregnancy, a new study from the University of Iowa found.
Fitness and Gestational Diabetes
"Many women who become pregnant and later develop GDM (gestational diabetes mellitus) already have elevated metabolic risk factors before pregnancy," says Erica Gunderson, an epidemiologist and senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California and a co-author on the study.
‘Engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity and fitness routine before pregnancy reduces the risk of gestational diabetes.’
"Higher physical activity before pregnancy may lower risk of GDM by improving glucose metabolism and preventing excessive weight gain," said Gunderson.
Women should be fit and indulge in healthy practices before pregnancy. People who are more concerned about fitness can engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week (30 minutes per day, five days per week). Brisk walking is considered to be a moderate physical activity and jogging as a vigorous physical activity, says Kara Whitaker, assistant professor in the UI's Department of Health and Human Physiology and corresponding author on the study.
It is essential to get a significant reduction in gestational diabetes by getting better in shape and involving in moderate improvements in fitness, says Whitaker.
Details of the Study
Whitaker's team collected data from 1,333 women spread over a 25-year period (1985 to 2011). These women had registered in a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute study called Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA). Seven study visits were conducted after being enrolled, and details such as whether they had become pregnant or gave birth and whether they developed gestational diabetes were collected.
A fitness exam was conducted during the first visit by examining whether the participants could walk at least for two-minute intervals on a treadmill at varying speeds and on steepening inclines.
Findings of the Study
During the study period, 164 of the women participants developed gestational diabetes. Women who engaged with high levels of fitness before pregnancy had a 21 percent lower risk of getting gestational diabetes than did those with lower fitness levels. The findings elaborate the importance of improving fitness before a woman becomes pregnant.
Gestational diabetes mainly occurs during the last half of pregnancy and affects up to 14 percent of pregnant women in the United States, shows data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Type 2 diabetes risk becomes higher in women with gestational diabetes after giving birth.
"If female patients who are considering pregnancy weren't meeting physical activity guidelines (as outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine), then a doctor could write a prescription, such as for a walking program," Whitaker says.
The findings of the study can be used by doctors and health experts to encourage higher pre-pregnancy fitness among women. This will help those at risk for gestational diabetes. The study could also be helpful to control other health risks in pregnant women.
- Kara M. Whitaker, Katherine H. Ingram, Duke Appiah, Wanda K. Nicholson, Wendy L. Bennett, Cora E. Lewis, Jared P. Reis, Pamela J. Schreiner, Erica P. Gunderson. Pre-Pregnancy Fitness and Risk of Gestational Diabetes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2018) DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001600