Gestational diabetes is one of the most common complications of pregnancy often resulting in high birth weights. It not only affects the mother during pregnancy but it also puts them at a greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Unfortunately gestational diabetes is treated reactively rather than preventatively. So the question is: can gestational diabetes be prevented?

The American Diabetes Association has highlighted a study conducted by C. Zhang and colleagues that sheds some light on the subject. Diet, according the the National Institutes of Health, is a critical factor in preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes or reversing the condition once it sets in. The study, called The Nurses' Health Study II, began in 1989 surveying more than 100,000 women who responded to questionnaires related to health, diet and lifestyle every couple of years.

The study found that diets high in fiber help people keep weight off and lead healthier lives. Women who eat a high fiber diet are less likely to get gestational diabetes. For every 10 grams of total daily fiber a woman eats she lowers her risk of gestational diabetes by 26 percent! The study also found that women who eat diets low in dietary fiber were twice as likely to get gestational diabetes.

There are many risk factors for gestational diabetes. Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether dietary changes need to be made in order to minimize your risk.

  • Are you overweight? 
  • Do you have a family history of diabetes? 
  • Have you previously given birth to a large birthweight baby? 
  • Are you over 25 year of age? 
  • Do you belong to an ethnic group that experiences higher rates of gestational diabetes (In the US these groups include Mexican-Americans, American Indians, African Americans and people of Asia, India or the Pacific Islands) 
  • Have you previously had gestational diabetes? 

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, utilize your health care team to take a proactive approach. Talk about gestational diabetes with your doctor, obstetrician, nurse educator and dietician to come up with a plan.

Remember, with each 10 grams of dietary fiber in your daily diet your risk goes down and your chances for preventing gestational diabetes goes up!