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Lifestyle changes may help prevent gestational diabetes in high-risk women, study finds

Pregnant women at high risk for gestational diabetes had lower incidence of actually developing the condition when they were given lifestyle counselling, a new study found.

In the study, women who were given individualized diet and exercise counselling were more likely to make lifestyle improvements, and had 39 per cent lower incidence of gestational diabetes than women who were not offered this program.

The randomized, controlled study led by researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland included 269 pregnant women. All of the women in the study were at high risk of developing gestational diabetes, either because they were obese (BMI of 30 or higher before pregnancy) or they had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy. They all joined the study before 20 weeks gestation.

An individualized program of diet and exercise counselling, in addition to regular prenatal care, was provided to 155 of the study participants. Each of these women had three sessions with a nurse who provided personalized advice on diet, exercise and weight control, as well as a group session with a dietitian. The other 139 women received diet and exercise pamphlets that are usually provided to pregnant women, but were not offered the counselling program.

Twenty women (13.9 per cent) in the counselling group developed gestational diabetes, compared to 27 (21.6 per cent) in the other group. After adjusting for factors like age and BMI, the study authors calculated that the counselling program led to a 39 per cent decrease in incidence of gestational diabetes.

Both groups improved their diets during pregnancy, but the improvements in the counselling group were significantly greater than in the control group. The women who received counselling also increased their physical activity by a median of 15 minutes per week. There was no change in physical activity in the control group. However, only about one-quarter of the women in either group achieved the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week.

The authors conclude that counselling that helps pregnant women make modest changes in diet and exercise may help prevent gestational diabetes in women at high risk.

The study was published online in Diabetes Care on July 29, 2015.



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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital