You may have heard that women with PCOS have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. Both conditions are rooted in insulin resistance and can be a serious health concern for pregnant women. There is good news though. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after delivery, and there are steps you can take both before you conceive and during pregnancy to reduce the risks and impact of gestational diabetes on you and your baby.
PCOS and Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a condition that impairs a pregnant woman’s glucose production and leads to high blood sugar. That, in turn, may lead to a high birth weight, premature birth, jaundice, future obesity and diabetes,and other critical health risks. Additionally, gestational diabetes may cause a number of developmental problems for the unborn child if left untreated. For the mother, risks include high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, gestational diabetes in future pregnancies and type II diabetes later in life, and additional weight gain.
Women suffering from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) are often already typically insulin-resistant, meaning our bodies require higher insulin levels to keep blood sugar within the normal range. Many of us also struggle with type II diabetes prior to pregnancy. For these reasons, doctors typically recommend careful screening around week 20, that is 4-8 weeks earlier than for those with lower risk.
Steps You Can Take
All women with PCOS must take a careful look at their diet. There is no perfect diet for PCOS or for gestational diabetes, but there are some guidelines. Begin by crowding out processed foods with lean meats and tons of fresh vegetables. Fruit and whole grains contain important nutrients and should not be eliminated in the pursuit of eliminating carbohydrates, but should be limited. Above all, choose foods that make you feel good after you have eaten them. Watch for signs of inflammation after you eat certain foods (especially gluten and dairy) such as lethargy, bloating, headaches, and brain fog.
Daily movement is a powerful tool in the prevention and management of PCOS and gestational diabetes. Research suggests that women with gestational diabetes engage in both aerobic and resistance (weight) training at least 3 days a week for 30-60 minutes per day for optimal benefit. That is an excellent guideline, but the important thing is that you are moving every day in a manner you enjoy and leaves you feeling great.
There is a growing body of research supporting use of probiotic supplements to help control gestational diabetes. Probiotics are live bacteria that provide certain health benefits to the body, most notably to the immune and digestive systems. For PCOS patients and pregnant women in particular, probiotic supplementation is strongly linked with lower blood sugar levels and improved gut health.
In a 2017 study, researchers closely examined the efficacy of probiotic supplementation in controlling gestational diabetes by conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of existing published data. This thorough review process covered six random controlled trials with 830 patients. The study authors found that probiotic supplementation significantly reduced insulin resistance and fasting serum insulin. However, in terms of its effects on fasting glucose levels, no significant change was found.
These findings are specifically relevant for PCOS patients. A study published in 2015 involved conducting a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial among 72 PCOS patients between the ages of 15 and 40. While one group received probiotic supplements over a period of 8 weeks, the other received placebos during the same time frame. Results revealed that probiotic supplementation reduced fasting blood sugar, while bringing down serum insulin levels significantly.
Another nutrient to consider in controlling and preventing gestational diabetes is inositol. Inositol is a sugar alcohol that our bodies naturally produce from glucose. It functions as a secondary messenger in charge of regulating certain hormones and treating conditions that are typically associated with PCOS, such as high blood pressure and the inability to ovulate.
Women with insulin resistance (which includes many PCOS women) typically have an inositol deficiency. Insulin-resistant women are also less capable of properly metabolizing and using inositol from food. In this case, a satisfactory supply of inositol cannot be obtained from their diet alone.
The authors of a 2017 study collected and examined data from a total of 83 pregnant women within their first trimester of pregnancy. Forty of these women received treatment that included D-chiro-inositol and D-myo-inositol, while the remaining 43 women only received folic acid. The results showed a benefit in supplying D-chiro-inositol and D-myo-inositol to pregnant women for preventing the occurrence of gestational diabetes.
PCOS and gestational diabetes are certainly linked. They can also each have beautiful outcomes when taken seriously and treated holistically. A full-term and healthy pregnancy is attainable, especially if you begin healing your PCOS well before you conceive. You may even end up feeling better than before and completely avoid future type II diabetes. Upgrades to your lifestyle and taking supplements such as a quality prenatal with folates instead of folic acid, inositol, and probiotics can set you on the path.
Amy Medling, best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.
 Julia VJ, Carlos SPJ, Mayra Ivonne HC, Dania Lizet QF, Lorena TPA, et al. (2014) Prevalence of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. J Diabetes Metab 5:354 doi: 10.4172/2155-6156.1000354
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