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Remember a few weeks ago, when I shared my struggles in taking the gestational diabetes test? Well, there ended up being a lot more behind that struggle than just having to figure out a way to swallow that awful sugary fruit punch drink!
About a month ago, I took the "one hour" glucose test and did not pass it. My blood sugar count wasn't awful- a 144, but my doctor recommends retaking the test if you're over 140. So I trooped back to the lab and took the "three hour" glucose test. Essentially, the lab technician tested my blood clean, I then drank the sugary drink (this time I went for orange- it was still awful!) and they proceeded to test my blood every hour for the next three hours. It was actually a tough test- the sugary drink more or less shocked my body as my blood attempted to metabolize it. I didn't feel too hot through the entire thing, but had high hopes that because my original count wasn't that high, I would be fine.
A few days later, I received a phone call from my doctor's office- I had failed the three hour glucose test and had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. So many thoughts quickly ran through my head- did I do something wrong to trigger this? Have I put my baby at risk? What the heck comes next?
Luckily, my doctor's office holds a gestational diabetes training class to help answer some of these and many other questions. And it's been a couple of weeks for me so far, so I have learned a lot about this condition. While I'm certainly not a doctor or a diabetes expert (please consult a professional for expert advice!), I thought I'd share my story with all of you in case you're at risk for gestational diabetes or if you're going through being diagnosed as well.
First off, I learned that nothing I had done triggered the onset of gestational diabetes for me. Essentially, the pregnancy hormones that are produced by the placenta tend to block the action of insulin produced by your pancreas for your cells. This means that you will see a modest elevation of sugar in the blood of most pregnant women. Unfortunately for me and about two to ten percent of other pregnant women, the elevation of sugar in our blood streams isn't modest. In fact, it's high enough to put our bodies and our baby's body at risk for excessive weight gain, respitory distress syndrome, jaundice and diabetes later in life.
But the good (great!) news is that all of these potential complications for both you and the baby can be avoided by monitoring your blood sugar and modifying your diet accordingly. At my class, I received a blood sugar monitoring system and I now check my blood sugar counts three to four times each day. I also learned how to change my diet so that my blood sugar counts remain low.
While every woman may be different, my doctor recommended that I monitor my carbohydrate intake. I've got a "goal" number of carbs to eat each day: approximately 170 grams, which I divide up throughout my meals. Most days, I'll shoot for 30 grams for breakfast, 20 grams for a mid-morning snack, 50 grams for lunch, 20 grams for an afternoon snack and about 50 grams for dinner.
For those of you who watch your nutrition facts, you'll notice that those aren't very high carb counts! I was very surprised at how quickly my limits were reached. To be completely honest, it can get a little stressful to count my carbs so precisely. When I'm out at restaurants, I'm constantly asking waiters if they have their nutrition facts available or I'm researching such on my phone. I get a lot of dirty looks from people... I'm thinking their thoughts are along the lines of "why in the heck is that pregnant lady trying to diet?" But I know I'm doing the right thing for me and my baby, so they can just kiss my butt!
So far, I've tried to make it a point to add extra protein and dairy into my diet, to be sure that I'm filling myself and the baby up. Just because I'm cutting the carbs doesn't mean I'm cutting my caloric intake! A typical day of meals looks something like this for me... breakfast: a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a glass of sugar-free orange juice, snack: Greek yogurt, lunch: (embarassingly! I'm always so busy during the work day!) a frozen meal, like an Amy's or Kashi entree, snack: celery and peanut butter, with a few raisins, dinner: grilled chicken with a small side of rice and a large side of vegetables.
I won't lie. Cutting the carbs (and, in effect, my sugar) has been hard. I miss me some Dunkin Donuts. But I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so I feel blessed that this condition has pushed me in the right direction to eat healthier. It's great for me and for my baby, so I can't complain.
My doctor also explained to me that it's also important to work regular exercise into your schedule, as it helps your body process the sugar through your blood. As I shared in my article about my favorite pregnancy workouts, I find yoga and pilates to be a great form of exercise while pregnant.
And the best news? I visited my doctor yesterday morning and she reviewed my blood sugar counts from the last week and a half- she was very happy with what she saw! In fact, she was so encouraged by my low blood sugar counts that she suggested adding a few more carbs back into my diet to test my levels. That made me a happy camper.
The majority of gestational diabetes cases disappear after delivery, which makes sense based upon the fact that your body is no longer inundated with the same pregnancy hormones. So until then, I'll be testing my blood and monitoring my diet to ensure that my body is healthy and safe for labor and for my baby. It's been a crazy journey through this gestational diabetes maze, but I'm feeling blessed every day to have the opportunity to stay healthy and safe for my soon-to-arrive little man!
If you'd like to learn more about gestational diabetes, check out these articles: our site and Mayo Clinic.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.