Women who are pregnant are always counseled on the importance of exercise. Exercise during pregnancy helps protect against excessive weight gain, high blood pressure, and the development of toxemia of pregnancy. It also improves birth outcome.
Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy can protect against the development of gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a condition that develops after the 20th week of pregnancy, where the mother has high blood sugar and the baby grows abnormally large. It can complicate delivery and increase risk of death for both mother and child.
A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine examined the effects that exercise and activity prior to pregnancy and on the incidence of gestational diabetes.
Researchers studied women enrolled in the Nurses Health Study who had at least one pregnancy between 1990 and 1998. The used a questionnaire to assess the level of activity prior to becoming pregnant as well as assessing daily activities.
The results showed that women who had a vigorous level of activity prior to pregnancy had 23% less chance of developing gestational diabetes. As well women who walked briskly compared to an easy walk were 34% less likely to develop the condition.
They also looked at the amount of TV that was watched by the women prior to becoming pregnant as a prediction of sessile behavior. Women who watched more than 20 hours of television per week most likely to develop gestational diabetes, regardless of other risk factors such as weight, prior pregnancy outcome and family history. Women who watched less than 2 hours had the least risk and were associated with increased activity.
The results of this study carry serious implications for women of childbearing age. Many women will pledge to get in shape or start some exercise routine once establishing pregnancy, but it may be more important to be healthier before pregnancy.
Women who develop gestational diabetes are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life, regardless of risk factors and lifestyle choices. As well infants born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more likely to be diabetic and obese themselves.