Pregnancy Files #2: Exercise for gestational diabetes sufferers

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a common complication during pregnancy resulting from poorly controlled blood sugar levels. It is growing in prevalence, with incidences ranging from 3.5-12% (1-3). Longer term health implications are also coming to light, with a seven-fold increased risk of mothers developing type 2 diabetes later in life (4), whilst children of a GDM pregnancy are also at greater increased risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity (5).

Exercise has long been a beneficial therapy to managing type 2 diabetes, and a systematic review by Harrison et al (2016) (6) found similar improvements in glycaemic control in women diagnosed with GDM during pregnancy. Moderate intensity, cardiovascular or resistance (weight training) exercise performed a minimum 3 sessions per week safely lowered post meal and fasting glucose outcome measures, with no additional increase in adverse events (6).

Lower post meal blood glucose levels are linked to fewer maternal and neonatal complications (3) including excessive birth weight. In addition, up to 39% of women with GDM are unable to control blood glucose levels with diet modifications alone, further highlighting the benefits of exercise in the antenatal period.

If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and would like more information on safe and effective exercise in the antenatal period contact our clinic to see Nicole our Exercise Physiologist and Physiotherapist.

Nicole also runs antenatal exercise classes at the clinic each Wednesday, enquire today to book in.

1. American Diabetes Association. Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes care. 2013;36.67-74.
2. Artal R. Exercise: the alternative therapeutic intervention for gestational diabetes. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2003;46:479-487.
3. Serlin DC, Lash RW. Diagnosis and management of gestational diabetes mellitus. Am Fam Physican. 2009;80:57-62
4. Bellamy L, Cases J-P, Hingorani AD, Williams D. Type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2009;373:1773-1779.
5. Kral JG. Preventing and treating obesity in girls and young women to curb the epidemic. Obes Res. 2004;12:1539-1546.
6. Harrison AL, Shields N, Taylor NF, Frawley HC. Exercise improved glycaemic control in women diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus: a systematic review. J Physiother.2016.