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The Low Down On Gestational Diabetes (Part I)

By Macki West |

I was just diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Two for two! I blame my husband’s genome because that makes me feel better. (The heck if I’m gonna blame it on “advanced maternal age.” Barf.)

My first diagnosis was a huge shocker; I was under 35 (barely), petite, had no family history and my OB was baffled because I my eating habits are pretty healthy, save for the occasional sweet. The good news, during my first pregnancy, was that my numbers weren’t all that bad. I could use diet and exercise to control my insulin. The bad news? I’m irrationally afraid of needles, or at least I was, but I’ll get to the needles later. I’ve also learned a few tips and tricks to pass along and I’ll break down my experience…

Here’s the deal! Around 25 weeks, your OB will give you a glucose test. You must fast for 8 hours before it takes place so schedule it first thing in the morning. The glucose test kicks off with a glass of the sweetest carbonated beverage. It was all I could do not to throw up. My tip: bring a straw to suck that goop down without the taste saturating your mouth. You’ll also have to sit there for an hour before the blood test, but then you can go home and eat whatever you want.

Two days later your phone will ring and your OB will tell your insulin numbers. If your numbers are fine, then you receive a get out of jail free card and collect $200. (Not really, silly.) And you don’t need to read further! Congratulations. However, if your numbers are high, get ready for the second appointment and the 3 hour glucose test.

Ah yes! The Three Hour Glucose Test Of Torture!

You fast again the night before and go in early, but you can just tell the doctor’s office when you will be in since the doctor won’t need to see you. First on the agenda, getting your blood drawn to get the fasting number. The fasting number is your body’s baseline, or the amount of sugar in your blood when there is no food in your system. After the blood test comes Super Sweet Drink Round Two! Twice the volume this time around! (Bring your straw.)

My OB’s office has no WiFi so I would advice loading up your iPad or Smartphone with TV shows or a movie. I also brought a book, two tabloids, a magazine, a newspaper, a pen, notebook, headphones, earbuds and of course my walker, which has a nice pouch for all my stuff. I look like a kangaroo.

After the first hour, they take blood. Then you sit and wait a second hour. They take blood. You wait a third hour. They take more blood and if you weren’t feeling nauseas before, Hello Sister.

Then you FINALLY get to go home. You’re famished, but you have no appetite. You’re dizzy, but you need to drive. Living. The. Dream.

Now you get to wait a couple more days hoping that you passed. If you did, good for you. If not, read on.

Because it’s time for the registered dietician and food counselor!!!

Your doctor will refer you to a registered dietician, who will help you with meal planning and your new daily routine; finger pricks for testing blood sugar and the appropriate corresponding numbers, menu plans, and keeping a food diary. You have to keep track of everything you eat because, if your numbers are high, you know what to avoid. If they are normal, you know what you can tolerate.

Fortunately the numbers are low enough, you can manage your insulin with diet and exercise alone. If not, there is an oral or injectable insulin that can be prescribed.

The fun part is getting more ultrasounds. The doctor needs to monitor the size of the baby to make sure he/she is growing at the appropriate rate. Gestational diabetes is linked to large babies, but not if you keep your blood sugar in check!

But the part that I especially hate… More Needles!!!

Every day I prick my fingers 4 times to test my sugar level. When I wake up and one hour after every major meal. I did this for 7 weeks. In the beginning, I was traumatized four times a day. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to overcome. But 7 weeks later it became just another part of my day. I made it through and had a super healthy, 7lb 2oz baby boy and I no longer hyperventilate at the sight of a needle. Also, I learned a ton about the importance of food combinations and the definition of a truly balanced meal. This trickled down to my family. Now portion control and food combination has become second nature.

Stay tuned for part 2 with more gestational diabetes tips and tricks and some clues about what to eat.

Read more from Macki on Being Pregnant or the Family Kitchen

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About Macki West


Macki West

Macki West is a unique and original wild-woman at heart who happens to be wrapped around her three kids fingers. She founded Cool Mom Tips and contributes to Prudent Baby, Cooking With My Kid, Babble’s Family Kitchen, and Babble Pregnancy. Read bio and latest posts → Read Macki's latest posts →

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4 thoughts on “The Low Down On Gestational Diabetes (Part I)

  1. Jen says:

    Another plus: you become a heck of a whole lot more aware of extra sugars in some of your favorite products. My son is 4 months old and we’ve stuck to a lot of the changes we made.

  2. Sarah says:

    As a type 1 diabetic, it’s been a more intense kind of management for me than you describe. At 18 weeks and change, I test 7-10 times a day and use an insulin pump to fine-tune my insulin delivery. It’s not fun, but hopefully it will be worth it. Having pre-existing diabetes when in early pregnancy, you have a higher likelihood of neural tube defects and other birth defects if your blood sugar numbers are consistently high. So the intensive management actually starts in months -3 to -6 before getting pregnant.

  3. susanne says:

    I, too, had GD when pregnant with my daughter. She was an IVF baby so I was totally over the needle thing after having to give myself injections with really big needles while trying to conceive. I feel the GD made me way healthier and more aware of everything that I was eating. I checked my glucose 4 x a day and was giving myself insulin 3 x a day. I only gained 21 pounds over the entire pregnancy and she was a very healthy 7 lb 4 oz with no complications. Yes, the 3 hour glucose test was hell but a small price to pay to make sure that your baby is going to be OK. I had to repeat the 3 hour test when she was 6 weeks old to make sure that I was fine. I vomited during the test the first time, and had to REPEAT it 2 weeks later. Good luck to everyone out there with GD!

  4. TBerry says:

    Thankfully, I was able to control my GD through diet and monitoring. It does make you more aware of what and how you eat. Breakfast was the hardest for me because I don’t like eggs and you can’t eat fruit int he morning because of the sugars.
    The scariest part was that the doctors kept telling me I was going to have a big baby and they wanted to induce me if I was past my due date. I fought the induction and eventually reluctantly scheduled it for a week and 1/2 past my due date. I went into labor a week after my due date and had a 6lb 12oz baby who was not large and has continued to be a fairly slender child. The doctors were harping on the baby’s probable largeness right up until they weighed him (he was long). They were shocked how small he was. I gained about 18lbs during my pregnancy and more than half was int he first trimester when I ate every 5 minutes so that I wouldn’t throw up.
    What I didn’t find out until right before I was due is that the bigger concern with GD is not the baby’s size. The concern is that the baby’s blood sugar will crash because it is used to getting a higher amount from the mom and compensating by producing more insulin.
    I wish I was told this in the beginning because it is a much more convincing reason to be careful that the size of the baby. (I had been unconvinced from the start that he would be a big baby, despite what everyone said.)
    Oh, and I know of at least 3 other people who had GD and had full term (within 1 week of due date or later) and had babies under 7lbs. 2 had to use insulin and the other controlled it with diet.

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