By: Melanie Braga
All pregnant women are screened within 28 weeks of pregnancy for Gestational Diabetes. Between 3 and 20 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, depending on their risk factors. And little did I know that this was a reality that I was going to experience.
At the 28th week, I went to do the diabetes test which requires to drink a sugar drink (tasted like Gatorade to me) and I had to wait an hour to do the urine and blood work. A few days after, the OB office called to say my sugar levels were really high and I will need a special team of healthcare professionals that will be watching me carefully. Now my whole world was going to change once again!
So what exactly is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Your body cannot produce enough insulin to handle the effects of a growing baby and changing hormone levels. Insulin helps your body to control the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood. If your body cannot produce enough insulin, your blood glucose (sugar) levels will rise. Once your baby arrives, the gestational diabetes does goes away. However, there is a 20 to 40 percent chance that you may develop type 2 diabetes later in life so it’s important to develop a healthy lifestyle to prevent it from returning.
Risk factors for getting Gestational Diabetes are:
35 years of age or older
From a high-risk group (Aboriginal, Hispanic, South Asian, Asian and African)
Obese (BMI of 30kg/m2 or higher)
Giving birth to a baby that weighed more than four kilograms (nine pounds)
Gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
A parent, brother or sister with type 2 diabetes
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or acanthosis nigricans (darkened patches of skin)
How does it affect your baby?
The good news is that your baby will not be born with diabetes and you can have a happy and healthy baby. However, if left undiagnosed or untreated, gestational diabetes can lead to high blood glucose (sugar) levels which can increase the risk that your baby will weigh more than 9 lbs and you can have a difficult delivery. It can also increase the risk of your baby becoming overweight and developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
How I Managed
There is tons of information on how to manage gestational diabetes online and in my case I was very lucky to have great healthcare professionals that helped guide and monitor me throughout my pregnancy. The first step that I had to take was attend an educational session at my local hospital. There I learned more about gestational diabetes; foods that are good to eat and not great to eat; how to count carbohydrates in each meal; how to check blood sugar levels; and how to eat balanced meals. The information was a lot to take and I felt a little overwhelmed at first but I knew I had to make a change for me and my baby.
To ensure that my diabetes was managed properly, I would see the diabetes specialist and nutritionist every two weeks. I had to keep track of my blood sugar levels 4 times a day (normal morning blood sugar is 5.4 and during the day it’s 7.8). Once I had great blood sugar levels, I was able to reduce the checking to twice a day, and on every other day. In addition, I would keep track of my meals. Since I love lists, checklists and just staying organized, I created a food diary that would list the foods that I would eat. This was a great way to see what foods I ate that would affect my blood sugars. I used this tool to show my healthcare professionals and this way they could tell me what I could be eating more or less of. I would eat little portions but more frequently and was very careful on what I would consume. The key for me was to ensure I knew how many carbohydrates was in each meal as it helped me keep my sugar levels perfect.
Managing gestational diabetes is difficult especially when you have nausea all the time throughout your whole pregnancy. Sometimes I wonder how I did it and I think what helped was knowing that I wasn’t doing this for only me but for my baby. I am thankful that the diabetes went away after my baby was born and now it’s up to me to make sure that it doesn’t come back again.
I learned a great deal going through Gestational Diabetes and I can now support someone who finds themselves in the same situation. It was all about choosing a healthy diet and enjoy foods from all four food groups and spread out the foods by eating smaller meals and snacks. This way both baby and I stayed healthy.
– Momma Braga