Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond - Gestational Diabetes
IHM | Aug 4, 2022
This was something that really wasn’t on my radar prior to diagnosis; I’m positive, many women out there are feeling much the same way. I’m 5’3” of 105 lbs without pregnancy, eat pretty healthy, and exercise regularly. Furthermore, at the time of my diagnosis, I had no known diabetes history in my family. However, my father was recently diagnosed with T2 Diabetes. So, when my 1-hour glucose screening came back high, and I was told I would need to go through the 3-hour test to see if I would have a definitive diagnosis, I was devastated. However, my professional experience told me that MANY women fail a 1 hour and go on to have a completely normal 3 hours. So, I rested in that until I was able to have the 3-hour test done. There is no “sugar coating” that test; it’s pretty horrible. You have to FAST the night before. Come in, have your fasting blood sugar drawn, drink that awful drink, and then proceed to sit there for 3 hours while having your blood drawn an additional 3 times at 1-hour increments.
The day I got my results, my doctor pulled me aside on a Saturday while I was working to tell me my sugars were high for 3 hours and, therefore, I would be labeled with Gestational Diabetes. I was instructed to make an appointment with the diabetes counselor, would get a glucometer to start checking my sugars four times a day, and needed to watch my carbohydrate and sugar intake. I was also told I would have additional scans towards the end of the pregnancy to check to make sure the baby was not too big and that a conversation would be had around 38-39 weeks about possible induction/delivery instead of riding out to my due date or beyond (which is most common for first-time moms). I immediately felt devastated and defeated. I was doing everything in my power to be as healthy as possible for the baby and for a good delivery outcome, keeping all possible symptoms of gestational diabetes low. At the same time, I was mad at my body for failing in this way. I immediately started thinking about what it was that I had been doing that could have caused that (was it the fruit smoothies I had been enjoying?!). Now, I know better than that type of thinking. Sometimes, yes, women COULD be stressing their bodies constantly in the way that they eat or lack of exercise, which could be causing their bodies to fail to keep up with the sugar intakes and be weak in this way, but also, the truth is, many times it is our genetic makeup that causes our bodies to be weaker in this way during a time of stress (AKA pregnancy).
I spent the majority of that day crying. In hindsight, things could have been SO MUCH WORSE. This diagnosis is not everything in fact, by pregnancy number 3, it was old news, and I just assumed I would have it again with all the risk factors for gestational diabetes. I would have even felt UNCOMFORTABLE had I been told I didn’t and that checking my sugars was unnecessary (I would have done so regardless). I was able to see the silver lining in all of it! I was forced to ignore all those wicked, wildly unhealthy pregnancy cravings and always, always opt for the healthier option. My motivation, I would do anything IN MY POWER for my baby and to keep them healthy, and I was ultra-motivated for a good birth outcome (small babies=easier births). This caused me to have minimal weight gain (easier to lose post-pregnancy) and ultimately caused me to have a reasonably sized baby (easier to birth!) and helped me to create better eating habits overall OUTSIDE of pregnancies. It also allowed me to use what I personally learned in coping with GDM to help many other women who will go on to struggle with the very same diagnosis (family, friends, and YOU!). I ended up being able to control my sugars just fine using diet and exercise methods, and although trickier towards the end of pregnancies, I always had reasonable-sized babies (5,6,7 lbs). While this may not always be true for all, some women, despite all BEST efforts, will have to go on insulin to control sugars (ALONG with a good diet and exercise), and some women will grow large babies (because of genetics!) I felt as long as I gave my best effort at controlling everything that was IN MY REALM OF CONTROL, I could rest easy in that, and you should too…
Gestational diabetes or pregnancy diabetes is all about mindset. Honestly, mindset! Mindset is everything when it comes to changing the way you eat. Pregnancy lasts a maximum of 9 months, and this diagnosis generally doesn’t come until around 28 weeks or so (sometimes earlier if it’s a subsequent pregnancy with a history of GDM, but in that case, as I mentioned, old news). So, for most 28 to 40 weeks, that is 12 weeks of STRICT control and dedication about what goes into our mouths coupled with physical exercise (something as simple as going for walks after meals) regularly (for the best outcome!). This is temporary, but if you’re smart, this will give you PERMANENT habits that will last beyond pregnancy and hopefully dodge a gestational diabetes diagnosis later in life (which you will likely be told you are now a higher risk for). The thing about diabetes is you constantly have positive reinforcement for how you are doing. If your sugars are mostly all good, you can assume you are doing a good job. Towards the end, the demands on your body peak, and it will become slightly more difficult to achieve good control. This is the natural progression of things, to be expected. What I did for my diet was I found what works and stuck to that with one mystery meal (usually dinner). I inserted snacks between meals and one before bed.
Sample meal plan as follows:
2 eggs 1 small piece of wheat toast (feel free to insert avocado onto the piece of toast as well for some good fats)
Salad with chicken (pick a good dressing with no added sugars) ranch worked for me! I could sprinkle a few croutons on top of the salad with no issues. Tip: Sundays, grill some chicken tenderloins, and you have salad for your chicken for the whole week!
My mystery meal is where I would try to “spice things up” so I’m not eating the same thing every day all day long! Example: Fajita Bowls- ground meat (turkey, sausage, beef, etc.), peppers, and onions over top of riced cauliflower with some fajita seasonings.
- Apple with PB (green apples have less sugar and use natural PB with NO added sugars)
- Kind bars (if picking bars, read the nutritional facts and try to stick to one 5 g or less)
- Plain yogurt (again, read labels and compare sugar contents amongst diff brands, I used Siggi’s) with berries on top (blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) sprinkled with cinnamon (helps control sugars..)
- Cheese stick
Also, I found 2 separate KETO recipes for lb cake and blondie brownies I would alternate between for occasional “special treats” (super easy to search and find on Pinterest!),
Please keep in mind that this is a sample meal plan. Maybe you might not like what I did, but if you want, we can set up a meeting and talk about your likes and dislikes and come up with a meal plan that will work. Also, this is about trial and error and well because everyone’s individual thresholds are different and may need to be slightly tweaked as pregnancy goes on. Again, feel free to set up a chat, and we can talk about your own individual needs!
Nine times out of ten, you will have a good outcome. Once that baby and placenta are out, and the symptoms of gestational diabetes are gone, you can go back to business as usual. The silver lining is you might find that you learn good eating practices that will help you avoid T2 diabetes in the future; down the road, you can help out friends and family that might get that same scary & potentially overwhelming diagnosis, and you’ll see that it’s so much easier to lose that baby weight postpartum when the only weight gained was “within a healthy range”! Good outcomes all around! Furthermore, if you have subsequent pregnancies dealing with it will be a BREEZE! Now go enjoy that healthy baby you worked so hard to grow :)!