Coping with Gestational Diabetes
In case you weren’t already in hyperglycemic shock from all that leftover Halloween candy, I thought I might share a bit about my experience with gestational diabetes. It was just about this time of year during my first pregnancy that I found out I was just over the borderline, diagnosed with gestational diabetes. When I was pregnant with my son four years later, they tested me much earlier – at the end of the first trimester – and Jackpot! I had it again. It’s something our mom blogger Kris-Ann wrote about being screened for earlier this year, then just last week expectant first-time dad Brian mentioned to me that his wife had been diagnosed with it and that they had trouble finding any information, so I wracked my brain for the helpful things I could think of. So, here is my collection of helpful gestational diabetes thoughts. Please keep in mind I am just a person who had gestational diabetes – I am not a medical professional.
Gestational Diabetes: Tips for Moms-to-Be
1. Yes, it kind of sucked to have gestational diabetes, but it really wasn’t the suckiest thing in the world. Having diabetes when you’re pregnant while you’re already being careful about what you eat and do is as good a time as any to add a whole new set of rules to your diet. You’ll probably be pretty good about following the rules.
2. It sucked both more and less the second time I was pregnant. It sucked more because they tested me earlier and I had to deal with it longer, but it sucked less because unlike my first pregnancy, I welcomed the wonderful world of artificial sweeteners to my diet.
3. For me and others I know who had gestational diabetes only, I never needed insulin and was able to control my blood sugars by carefully counting carbs and small amounts of oral medication. The nutritionist in my OB’s practice was smart enough to know that a 30-week pregnant woman is not likely to be adding a lot of exercise to her routine.
4. I’m not a spreadsheet kind of person, but I did make myself an excel spreadsheet to keep track of what I was eating and what my blood sugars were. This was very helpful and easier than the hard copy the nutritionist gave me. Mind you this was in the day before lots of smartphone apps, so there may be something much better than that by now.
5. In my first pregnancy I welcomed all the additional ultrasounds and non-stress tests because it meant lots of extra pictures in utero. It would have been more annoying the second time around, but one of those extra ultrasounds ended up saving my baby’s life the first time around (more on that later), so I was all for the extra appointments. That said, I had the flexibility at work to schedule around my appointments. If you don’t, be prepared for lots of extra doctor visits in the last eight weeks or so of the pregnancy.
6. So – that little bit about saving my baby’s life? Well, the explanation for all those extra tests is that gestational diabetes can cause your baby to grow larger than it should, especially in the shoulders, causing complications in delivery. The OB tends not to worry you with all the other less common complications that gestational diabetes can bring. In my case, that was low amniotic fluid, revealed in an ultrasound, which led them to induce me then and there – three weeks before my due date.
7. Having gestational diabetes gave me a lot of empathy for people living with diabetes all the time. But I was shocked when, during my childbirth class, a woman with Type 1 diabetes told me she felt so bad for people like me with gestational diabetes. She had an insulin pump and didn’t have to watch every little thing she put in her mouth. Hmmmm. Having to decline a cookie for several months or having to live with an insulin pump for the rest of your life. I guess the grass is always greener.
8. Gestational diabetes is different from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. It is often treated much more aggressively, but at the same time, it goes away as soon as you deliver the placenta. If you’re looking for ways to manage your gestational diabetes, try to find friends who have been through the pregnancy variety. And if you can only find friends who have Type 1 or 2, keep in mind their experience may differ from what your OB recommends.
9. Be prepared that your primary care doctor’s office or insurance company may start sending you all sorts of information about managing your diabetes AFTER the baby is born. Thing is, they didn’t quite get the message that your diabetes was gone after the birth. Check in with them, but chances are they have just confused you with other diabetes patients and you can likely ignore these messages.
10. If there is some yummy treat you’ve been craving but dutifully avoiding during your pregnancy, have someone bring you the best version of that cookie, cake, candy, etc. to the hospital when you give birth. All I wanted after my baby was born was a really good fudge brownie. I got one from the hospital menu. It turned me off to brownies forever.
11. And finally, here’s my personal list of good lesser-known low carb foods: Joseph’s Flaxseed and Oatbran pitas, Dannon Light and Fit Greek yogurt, Balance Bar Gold bars, Teddy’s peanut butter, and Whipped Cottage Cheese. Well, just cheese. Lots of cheese. Did I mention cheese?
Did you experience gestational diabetes? What tips or helpful information would you add to the list?