You drank that gross orange stuff, suffered through the blood draws, and then got the call that you FAILED.
We’ve been there and are here to tell you, Gestational Diabetes is not the worst thing.
There will be days when all you want to do is make out with a pint of frozen custard and a cinnamon crunch bagel, but with a few tips and the help of your health care provider, you can do this!
The placenta is to blame for Gestational Diabetes: it’s producing a cocktail of hormones that block the insulin the body is producing from doing its job. This causes the blood to carry excess sugar to the baby, which can make the baby really big and hard to deliver. Some health care professionals or the Internet may cite some terrifying risks to GD but try not to worry too much. You and your healthcare team can keep this in check and avoid those scary potential outcomes. GD is not like many other pregnancy complications where you have no control. With Gestational Diabetes, a few simple lifestyle tweaks, and mom and baby can come out smelling like roses (or like newborn babies because, swoon!).
What you will need:
A great doctor: We hope you love yours, because you will be seeing him or her a lot, especially for the last 6-8 weeks, when you will most likely be monitored twice a week.
A blood sugar monitor: the doctor will prescribe this to you, and you will check your blood sugar four times a day to make sure it is within a healthy range.
A tracking device: We recommend not only keeping track of what your blood sugar readings are (your health care team will require you to report these at least weekly to monitor your progress), but also exactly what you ate that gave you these numbers. This way, you know how well your body tolerates certain foods, you can stock up on yummy favorites that are “safe” foods, and you have an explanation for any crazy readings (hopefully). You can do this the old fashioned way with pen and notebook or, of course, there’s an app for that! There are also several on the market to help with monitoring your intake and blood sugar levels. We paid the $9.99 for Diabetes and Blood Glucose Tracker by MyNetDiary. It tracks food and blood sugar levels and even has alerts when it’s time to test. It has the basic carb count for most foods and also comes with a barcode scanner that works for everything we tested. Very convenient!
What to Expect From Your Provider:
You will speak with either a nurse practitioner or a dietician to get the lowdown on the diet they want you to follow. This diet is not as complicated as it might first appear. On the bright side, it puts you in a place to have an extremely healthy pregnancy, filled with all the good foods we pregnant women should be eating but might not always choose first when left to our own cravings (ahem….looking in the mirror).
Again, your healthcare team will require you to report your blood sugar readings at least once a week. From there, they may or may not prescribe some medicine to help manage your levels, depending on what your readings are.
Your doctor might monitor you more closely during the last trimester to make sure everything is going smoothly. These appointments can be extremely reassuring: twice a week, we are told everything is perfect, nothing to worry about. That’s pretty cool.
They may want to deliver you at 39 weeks because of potential placental complications. It is what it is, right?
How to Manage Gestational Diabetes
Ask Lots of Questions: Ask the dietician, the nurse, your doctor, other moms who have had GD — there are lots of resources and no question is dumb. We don’t normally recommend chat rooms or forums when it comes to health concerns, but in this instance, there was a lot of helpful information out there for GD newbies. It’s a way to find other moms’ ‘real life’ experiences, to know what they are eating, how they manage to eat out, what they do at dinner parties and BBQs, and what to expect.
Talk It Out: When Meg got the GD diagnosis the first time, she panicked and had an anxiety attack. She felt mad and guilty and worried. She stopped sleeping. She told her doctor how she was feeling and not only did she work to alleviate Meg’s worry, she hooked Meg up with a psychologist in order to preempt any potential triggers for postpartum depression or anxiety. You are NOT alone in this and you did NOTHING wrong that made you get GD. Talk to people about how you feel. It will help a lot.
Seek Other Good Resources: There are some fantastic resources out there for Gestational Diabetes. Many sites pointed back to Lily Nichols, a dietician, nutritionist, and certified diabetes educator in California. She wrote a book called ‘Real Food for Gestational Diabetes’ and, while it does have a handful of recipes as you’d expect with a title like that, it’s more helpful at explaining what GD is and how to manage it during pregnancy. It can be helpful in stopping blaming yourself (and the three-too- many bowls of Corn Pops we might have been eating on a fairly regular basis), understanding where the diabetes came from, and how one can control it without medicine.
Find New Favorite Foods: Did you know Noodles and Company makes delicious salads, as does Potbelly’s and Panera? As long as you omit the rice, Qdoba and Chipotle burrito bowls are very kind to the blood sugar. Speaking of skipping rice, non-fried Chinese and Indian foods, both take-out or homemade, are blood sugar friendly choices. At home, cauliflower rice replaces white and brown rice beautifully in most dishes, and look at the caloric savings there! Kind Bars are a great snack on the go. Angelic Bakehouse products can work well as long as they are eaten very moderately. Halo Top Ice Cream is a lifesaver when you need a sweet fix. Breakfasts and snacks without cereal, milk, pancakes and maple syrup can be really hard, but it’s amazing how the palate expands when it must. Cottage cheese with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a few strawberries on top is delicious, as is cottage cheese with a spoonful of pesto and some cherry tomatoes. Siggi’s whole milk yogurt (a great protein source) with raspberries, a spoonful of pomegranate balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of granola or almonds is divine! We found our levels would also stay on track with peanut butter filled pretzels (though just a handful), apples dipped in ground almond butter, and bacon-wrapped dates with a pinch of goat’s cheese inside (yes please!) We plan on sticking with many of these newfound treats post-baby simply because we now love them, and they are healthful habits to help drop some baby weight.
Though let’s be real, a large pizza WILL be delivered to the hospital and whether or not it will be shared is still in question.
Get a good pair of shoes: Exercise helps keep those blood sugar numbers where they should be as well! Even if you spent the first trimester curled in the fetal position on your couch, it’s not too late to get up and get walking. Even 10-15 minutes after each meal helps!
We feel your pain in the gestational diabetes diagnosis. It sucks. But you’ve got this, Mama! It won’t last forever, and when it’s over, you will have a beautiful baby in your arms.