Lifestyle Intervention Reduces Likelihood of Gestational Diabetes, Study Finds

The study published in Diabetes Care showed that a relatively simple intervention reduced gestational diabetes 39% for women at risk.

A study from Finland published this week in Diabetes Care has reinforced the need to follow a healthy diet and exercise during pregnancy to prevent gestational diabetes.

The study involved 293 women in the first 26 weeks of pregnancy who all had either a history of gestational diabetes or were obese, but did not have diabetes. They were randomly assigned to 2 groups; one received the standard of care and the other received individual counseling on diet and exercise, which included visits with nurses and a dietician.

The women in the intervention group were advised to consume a diet of vegetables, fish and lean meats, low-fat dairy, fruits and berries, unsaturated fatty acids, and to limit their sugar intake. They were also advised to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week and given access to swimming pools and exercise groups.

About 14% of the women in the intervention group developed gestational diabetes, compared with 22% of the women in the usual care group, after researchers controlled for age and weight prior to pregnancy. This represents a 39% reduction in risk, the study team wrote. They noted that the women in the intervention group gained 1.3 fewer pounds on average.

Gestational diabetes and maternal obesity are both associated with adverse outcomes for both mother and child, said lead author Saila B. Koivusalo, MD, of Helsinki University Hospital. Since this the first trial of its kind, Koivusalo said it is hard to say what is the ideal time to start such an intervention with women who are at high risk of developing gestational diabetes.

A separate study published earlier this year in JAMA found that gestational diabetes at 26 weeks was associated with higher rates of autism spectrum disorders in children born to these mothers, even though a similar risk was not found to mothers with pre-existing type 2 diabetes mellitus.