Published on 11/13/08

Protect yourself and your children from diabetes

By Connie Crawley
University of Georgia

If you had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, you and your child have a greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. It’s a sign that you might not use insulin as well as other women. Insulin helps your cells get energy from the blood sugar made when you digest food. If your insulin does not work well or you don’t have enough of it, your blood sugar will increase and you might get Type 2 diabetes.

Children of women with gestational diabetes are more likely to have a problem with insulin, too. However, lifestyle changes can reduce the risk to you and your child. Research has shown that if a person can control his or her weight and be active, the chance of getting Type 2 diabetes is reduced by 60 percent.

So what can you do?

First, get checked for diabetes after your baby is born and again every one to two years. Finding Type 2 diabetes early and controlling it will help prevent or delay diabetic complications like vaginal or urinary tract infections, loss of sight, foot or leg infections that can lead to amputation, heart disease or kidney failure.

Be sure to tell all your healthcare providers that you had gestational diabetes. They will keep an eye on your blood glucose values. Tell your child’s doctor, too, that you had gestational diabetes. Also, tell your child about his or her risk for diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes affects almost 30 million Americans. It is a major problem in Georgia. To reduce risks for you and your child, do the following:

•Breastfeed your baby.

•Return to your pre-pregnancy weight. If you still weigh too much, work to lose 5 percent to 7 percent more. It’s best to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. You are more likely to gain weight back if you lose it too quickly.

•Make healthy food choices. Eat at least two vegetables at lunch and supper. Have fruit for desserts and snacks. Eat smaller amounts of lean meat, poultry and fish. Eat whole wheat breads. Avoid white bread and refined grains. Eat low-fat or non-fat dairy foods. Use only one to two teaspoons of oil or soft margarine at each meal instead of butter, salad dressings, mayonnaise or stick margarines.

•Eat smaller portions. A portion as wide and as thick as your palm is about a half of a cup or four ounces of vegetables, starches or protein foods. A tight fist is the right size for pieces of fruit and baked potatoes.

•Drink water instead of sweetened drinks.

•Be active for at least 30 minutes five or more days a week.

•Ask your doctor or a dietitian for a proper eating plan for your child. Help your whole family make healthy choices. Advocate for healthy foods to be served at your child’s school.

•Limit TV, video and computer game time to an hour or two a day.

•Encourage your child to be active every day for at least an hour.

(Connie Crawley is a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension nutritionist with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.)

Connie Crawley is a nutrition and health specialist with University of Georgia Extension.