It Wasn’t Anything I Did . . . Or Ate.

It wasn’t anything I did or ate. My midwife was very upfront with me about that. As were the nurse and dietitian who conducted the class on gestational diabetes I had to attend. It still felt like it though. I wasn’t piling on the sweets like there was no tomorrow, but I did indulge more than I normally would have before I was pregnant. My main craving throughout my pregnancy has been sweets. In particular ice cream. And now I find myself in a position where I can’t have any of that. No sweets at all. No ice cream. No pasta (oh, how I love pasta!). I’m on a strict diet. When I was handed my food guide for the diabetic diet, they’d already gone through and crossed out pages and pages of foods that your average diabetic would be allowed to eat–only, I’m not allowed. Talking to friends who have suffered from gestational diabetes, my health care provider seems to be on the stricter side of strict. But what am I to do? My unborn baby’s health–even her life–is on the line.

I did not feel any symptoms before being diagnosed (nor after). I would have had no idea had I not failed the 1-hour and 3-hour glucose tests.

Gestational Diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman’s body is unable to process glucose properly. It’s a result of the change in hormone levels, much of which is normal during pregnancy. But in the case of gestational diabetes, it causes higher blood sugar levels which pose a serious risk to the health and life of the baby. The disorder often appears after the 24th week of pregnancy, sometimes before. Although anyone can get it, women with a family history of diabetes, who are overweight, of an older age, and race can increase a woman’s chance of having gestational diabetes. I fall into three of those risk categories (overweight, family history, and being of an advanced maternal age).

Complications for the mother include a higher risk of preeclampsia, urinary tract infections, and the possibility of developing diabetes later in life. Risks to a baby include excess growth, hypoglycemia which can lead to seizures, respiratory distress syndrome, jaundice, Type 2 Diabetes later in life, developmental problems, and, on the rare occasion, death. As you can tell, this is serious business. That said, gestational diabetes is treatable. If a pregnant woman can get her glucose levels under control, she can go on to have a healthy baby–even by natural birth in many cases.

There are a couple of different ways to treat gestational diabetes. One is through diet and exercise and the other is through taking insulin. My health care provider is a strong advocate for diet and exercise, which, frankly, is fine by me. Since my doctor prefers injections to pills, it’s even more of an incentive to stick to the diet. Some people believe that knocking carbs out of a diet is the only solution but the body needs those carbs, relies on them. And so, ultimately, the goal is to balance the carbs with proteins. Fiber also helps as it slows down the digestive system, allowing the glucose to break down more fully. So, the diet I am on is high in fiber and protein.  I don’t pretend to be an expert–this is only one lay person’s understanding of gestational diabetes and the treatment plan I am on. There are plenty of resources available out there for those wanting to know more:

American Diabetes Association
Mayo Clinic
Baby Center

Besides watching the food I eat, I also am required to eat six meals a day: three “big” meals and three snacks. Each meal is set for a designated time. There is some flexibility in the schedule, although the general rule is that I cannot let ten hours go between my bed-time snack and breakfast. I must eat every 2 to 3 1/2 hours during my waking hours. This can sometimes be a problem, especially at work. I’m also required to test my blood four times a day. The first time, in the morning when I first wake up (my fasting glucose level), and then again an hour after the three major meals. I’ve discovered that washing my hands in warm water before I take a test and massaging the finger I will be pricking help in getting enough blood flowing for testing purposes.

Of course, for some women, diet isn’t enough. Their hormones and bodies still don’t cooperate. And for those, insulin may become necessary. I hope that won’t be the case for me. While diet seems to have gotten my blood sugar levels under control for the time being, my hormone levels are constantly changing. As a result, my medical team and I have to stay on top of my progress to make sure nothing changes.

I have adjusted for the most part. It brings with it many inconveniences, but if my baby is healthy as a result, it will be worth it.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. miracle fruit powder
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 09:25:03

    Interesting read – thanks for this, found you searching on Google.

    Reply

  2. caspette
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 16:09:25

    That sucks. I knew a few women who had this and diet and exercise helped them lots.

    Luckily that was the one thing I didn’t get during pregnancy though I expected because my diet was pretty limited while pregnant.

    For Aussies; Diabetes Australia has some good info http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/Understanding-Diabetes/What-is-Diabetes/Gestational-Diabetes-/ (sorry dont know how to link in a comment).

    Reply

    • Literary Feline
      Jan 10, 2011 @ 00:26:52

      Caspette – I am glad you didn’t end up with GD. Your diet wouldn’t have mattered regardless though. Many women who have healthy diets end up with gestational diabetes as well as those who may not eat well.

      Reply

  3. stacybuckeye
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 08:27:25

    Sorry to hear that, Wendy. I was nervous about having it, but ended up with preclampsia instead! At least it is treatable even if that makes your pregnancy more challenging. Good luck 🙂

    Reply

    • Literary Feline
      Jan 22, 2011 @ 15:18:43

      Thank you, Stacy. Preclampsia can be so much worse, I think. But you have a healthy little boy (except for that cold/flu bug!) now, so it worked out in spite of that. 🙂 My doctor and midwife are keeping a close eye on my blood pressure because it tends to be right on the borderline.

      Reply

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