In the midst of what was already a difficult pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GD) on April 25, 2019, around 29 weeks. The news wasn’t exactly surprising, but the lifestyle change has been very difficult.
Although I’m new to this journey, I’ve found some solidarity and support on multiple Gestational Diabetes Support groups on Facebook, and I thought blogging about my experience here might be cathartic as well. Plus, so much education is needed on this subject. Bear with me as I continue to learn more.
The important thing to know is we’re not alone, even though it can often feel like we are.
“Every year, 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States are affected by gestational diabetes.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Last pregnancy, I flunked my one-hour glucose test, but just barely, and went on to pass the three-hour like a champ. This time, my score of 214 was bad enough to serve as a diagnostic without the three hour.
By April 27, I was testing my blood sugar and watching my carbs. Until I could see a diabetic counselor, my OB nurse advised me to follow the American Diabetes Association 2,000-calorie diet, pending further education.
In the days that followed, my mood suffered drastically as I adjusted my lifestyle and felt increasingly alone. I wrote in my digital journal on Journey:
I am absolutely miserable. I know I should just be thankful for this pregnancy, and I am – but it’s hard to see at this point how I am going to make it another 11 weeks. 😦
And I wasn’t being overdramatic. My precious, growing baby had set up camp low in my pelvis, in breech position next to a still low-lying placenta, making the pressure on my lower belly and hips intense. Belly button pain and pressure made my clothes – even underwear – painful to wear. Restless legs and an increased need to pee all night long did their part to make sure I wasn’t getting any sleep. It hurt to walk. And depression was hitting me hard.
My closest family has been so supportive, and their actions – like making diet changes with me, or being patient with me when I’m in a terrible mood – have been what has really mattered. Actions speak louder than words.
It’s words, in particular, that hurt me. Perfectly well-meaning comments about how 11 weeks isn’t a very long time, and how GD is common, how it commonly results in a positive outcome when controlled (like I have a choice if I end up needing insulin), and/or that I somehow caused this to happen to myself land on me as dismissive and callous.
There are scary complications connected to GD, for both mother and baby! I have plenty of reasons to be stressed.
Complications that may affect your baby
If you have gestational diabetes, your baby may be at increased risk of:
- Excessive birth weight.
- Early (preterm) birth and respiratory distress syndrome.
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
- Type 2 diabetes later in life.
- **Untreated gestational diabetes can result in a baby’s death either before or shortly after birth.
Complications that may affect you
Gestational diabetes may also increase the mother’s risk of:
- High blood pressure and preeclampsia.
- Future Type 2 diabetes.
Sure, good control and careful monitoring by my doctor can mitigate a lot of that, but that doesn’t make it easy.
Not only that, but making drastic lifestyle changes is tough! Especially a few days after Easter, with Easter candy spread all over my house!
Although some women can control GD with their diet, that’s not true for all. Some just don’t have enough insulin to work with, as insulin needs in pregnancy continue to rise between 24-36 weeks.
I finally saw the diabetic counselor on May 1, who explained this to me and said my food logs looked great. Then she proceeded to adjust my diet slightly based on higher morning glucose readings. She recommended:
Blood Sugar Targets
- Fasting (first thing in the morning) – 65-95
- 1 hour after Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner – <130
*Balanced meals with plenty of fruits and veggies, protein at every meal/snack, emphasis on carb targets
**Try to add 30 minutes of exercise a day (not all at once, it adds up)
- Breakfast – 30g carbs with protein, no fruit
- Morning Snack – 30g carbs
- Lunch – 30-60g carbs
- Afternoon Snack – 0-30g carbs
- Dinner – 30-60g carbs
- Evening/Nighttime Snack – 0-30g carbs
That’s what I’m going on now.
The food choices are monotonous when you’re picky like me. You have to eat a lot of things you might not like (I’ve convinced myself when this is the case that the food is just medicine.) And you have to eat A LOT (which is hard, especially when you’d really rather not eat). It really cuts into one’s schedule. Every moment of every day is about food when you’ve got GD.
At my OB appointment Friday, they made copies of my log, and said my numbers look to be improving, but that my morning number needs to get better or I’m looking at insulin injections at night. I’m supposed to send my numbers in after today for a re-evaluation. As time goes by, I’ll need to be re-evaluated again and again to make sure my body is handing things well and that baby Violet is doing well also.
I swapped my regular nighttime snack of crackers and cheese with a glass of Fairlife chocolate milk (13g carbs, 13g protein – one of the few joys I’ve found during this process) and gave up both fruit and milk for breakfast (pre-10:30 a.m.), which seems to be helping. But my numbers are still on the high end, so one slip and I’m over.
(UPDATE: Now my evening numbers are spiking, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. 😦 Skipping a snack (which I try to avoid) appears to affect me negatively, and more protein probably can’t hurt, but otherwise, I’m at a loss.)
I’m still figuring it out. My mood is improving as I’ve found women in similar situations online to commiserate with, but the struggle continues, with 9-10 weeks to go.