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Glucose Control for Fertility and Pregnancy

Glucose Control for Fertility and Pregnancy
It is well known that glucose control is important in preventing and managing chronic illnesses, but it is also essential to both fertility and throughout pregnancy.


While many factors impact fertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common but treatable causes of infertility in women. PCOS is an imbalance in hormone levels and includes symptoms such as obesity, increased levels of testosterone and insulin, increased body hair, menstrual irregularity, and infertility. 


The body releases insulin when it senses glucose after meals. Insulin is chemically similar to hormones in the ovaries that help eggs mature, so excess insulin may result in decreased production of reproductive hormones which have the ability to interfere with ovulation and egg maturation. In individuals with insulin resistance, which is seen in PCOS and diabetes, insulin levels remain consistently elevated, the ovaries may produce excess testosterone. This interferes with fertility and leads to the classic symptoms of PCOS. 


Diet, especially focusing on decreased glucose and thus decreased insulin exposure, may play a significant role in PCOS in both fertility as well as decreasing risk of type 2 diabetes in the future. 


Pregnancy becomes an extremely important time for glucose control because of the risk for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes not only increases the mother’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future, but also increases the baby’s risk of a large birth weight, hypoglycemia at birth, and obesity in the future. During pregnancy, the placenta actually releases a hormone that increases insulin resistance. This means that even if your glucose was well controlled prior to pregnancy, focusing on diet becomes even more essential throughout these 9 months.


For both fertility and pregnancy, diet recommendations for glucose control are the same. Protein, fat, and fiber slow down the rate at which carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and thus decrease insulin spikes. Ensuring that each meal has protein, fat, and fiber is essential. For example, eating an apple on its own may cause a spike in glucose, but an apple with almond butter (fat and protein) will flatten out that spike and give you more blood glucose stability. Adding cinnamon to meals has even shown to decrease glucose spikes as well (and makes a delicious addition to an apple with almond butter!). This is especially helpful when carbohydrate cravings hit and the thought of any other foods may make you nauseous during pregnancy. 


Exercise after a meal has also been shown to normalize glucose levels, including going for a walk after eating! 

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Jillian Pecoriello, MD

Jillian Pecoriello, MD

Dr. Jillian Pecoriello is a resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Hospital. She received her MD from NYU School of Medicine. Dr. Pecoriello has extensive experience in fertility research and nutrition and is particularly interested in the effects of diet and lifestyle on fertility and hormones.

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