Fiber Is Important for a Healthy Pregnancy


Advice to fill up on fiber during pregnancy is nothing new, but there are plenty of reasons it is considered a staple for a healthy diet, especially for expectant mothers. In fact, a new study reinforces the need for pregnant women to eat more fiber. The results showed doing so could decrease chances for developing gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman does not respond to the insulin that her body is making. Therefore, her body is unable to keep her blood sugar, or glucose, within a range that is safe for her and her developing baby. This type of diabetes is diagnosed when a pregnant woman’s blood test shows a high blood glucose level and she did not have diabetes before becoming pregnant. It affects about 5% of pregnant women in the United States.

The USDA recommends people consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s 28 grams of fiber every day. Most Americans eat about 15 grams per day. Good sources of fiber include popcorn, berries, oatmeal, vegetables, nuts, beans, brown rice, whole grains and bran cereal.

“Most women with gestational diabetes are initially surprised, because they’ve never had diabetes before,” explained Scott Bergstedt, MD, ob/gyn with OBG-1 of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital. “Once they get over the initial shock and understand the importance of monitoring their blood sugar, they usually have a normal pregnancy and delivery. However, there are some cases that cause more concern. It’s important to get blood sugar under control. If not, the baby could get too much glucose in their blood.”

In situations like this, Dr. Bergstedt explained that the baby’s pancreas begins to produce more insulin to process the extra glucose. This causes the baby to gain extra weight and increases complications for a normal delivery.

After delivery, the baby could have low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, because the baby’s body is still producing extra insulin to balance the additional glucose from the mother. Other risks include jaundice, an increased number of red blood cells, low calcium in the blood, and in extreme cases, difficulty with the function of the baby’s heart. “Preeclampsia, which is high blood pressure in the mother, is another risk for a gestational diabetic pregnancy,” said Dr. Bergstedt.

These risks underscore the need for regular exams during pregnancy, letting the physician know of any unusual symptoms, and eating a healthy diet, which includes adequate fiber intake.

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