Systematic Review of Lifestyle Interventions for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

Published:November 26, 2021DOI:



      To examine the characteristics and effectiveness of lifestyle interventions for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in pregnancy and the postpartum period to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

      Data Sources

      We conducted searches in seven databases, including Ovid MEDLINE, CINAHL, Ovid Embase, Cochrane Central, Web of Science, Ovid PsycInfo, and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses for articles published from inception to January 2021.

      Study Selection

      We included articles on controlled intervention studies in which researchers evaluated a lifestyle intervention provided during pregnancy and the postpartum period for women with or at risk for GDM that were published in English.

      Data Extraction

      Twelve articles that were reports of seven studies met the inclusion criteria. In some cases, more than one article was selected from the same study. For example, articles reported different outcomes from the same study. We extracted data with the use of a data collection form and compared and synthesized data on study design, purpose, sample, intervention characteristics, recruitment and retention, and outcomes.

      Data Synthesis

      All seven studies focused on weight management and/or healthy lifestyle behaviors (diet and physical activity). Outcomes included glucose regulation, weight, lifestyle behaviors, and knowledge. The interventions varied in duration/dosage, strategies, and modes of delivery. In four studies, researchers reported interventions that had significant effects on improving glucose regulation and/or weight change. Some characteristics from the four effective interventions included goal setting, individualized care, and good retention rates. In the other three studies, limitations included low rates of participant retention, lack of personalized interventions, and limited population diversity or lack of culturally sensitive care.


      Lifestyle interventions provided during and after pregnancy to reduce the risk associated with GDM have the potential to improve outcomes. Health care counseling to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors related to the prevention of Type 2 diabetes is needed at different stages of maternity care for women with GDM. Additional high-quality studies are needed to address the limitations of current studies.


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      Shuyuan Huang, MPH, MSN, RN, is a PhD candidate, Yale School of Nursing, Orange, CT.


      Cherlie Magny-Normilus, PhD, FNP-BC, is a research scholar, Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA.


      Erin McMahon, CNM, EdD, FACNM, is a clinical assistant professor, College of Nursing, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.


      Robin Whittemore, PhD, APRN, FAAN, is a professor, Yale School of Nursing, Orange, CT.