Gestational diabetes was never really on my radar of things to worry about during pregnancy. I didn’t have it during my first pregnancy. To be honest, after two extremely nauseous pregnancies, I was way more worried about keeping that glucose drink down than anything else.
After I didn’t pass the initial one hour glucose screening, I started researching gestational diabetes to prepare myself for what could be ahead. I learned that I had some risk factors (my age, my race, and having a family history of diabetes) that upped my chances of getting it. I am thankful that I did some research beforehand because I learned very early on that gestational diabetes isn’t my fault. Upon diagnosis women tend to immediately feel guilty and stressed believing that they somehow brought this condition on themselves. Nope! Certain factors can make some more predisposed to gestational diabetes than others, but the mother’s behavior or eating habits do not cause it. It has more to do with placental hormones that make it harder for the body to make or use insulin. I think this is important to note, because a new diagnosis in and of itself is stressful, and throw in pregnancy hormones and anxiety over our unborn baby’s health, and it can make you feel a million times worse!
Anyway, I did some initial research on gestational diabetes and then scheduled my three hour glucose tolerance test. Again, I was more worried about being able to survive the test!
I checked in for a 9:15am appointment with Labcorp. Their online scheduling site is very user friendly. I actually had to cancel my original appointment on short notice, and had zero issues cancelling and getting a new appointment right away. I did it all online.
When I checked in, I noticed the lab was pretty full. They immediately sat me down for Blood Draw #1. This would be my fasting glucose level. After the blood draw, I was given the glucose drink with 100 grams of sugar (the one hour test is 50 grams of sugar). I chose the Lemon Lime flavor. In the past, I’ve always chosen Orange, but I wanted to try the Lemon Lime. It tasted fine – like flat sprite. I had five minutes to drink it. I finished it in two or three minutes and I’m definitely NOT a chugger.
After the drink, I was directed to an empty room with a few comfy chairs in it. I was told to sit and wait. My blood would be drawn at one hour, two hours, and three hours after drinking the drink. Luckily by the time my waiting period began, the lab had cleared out quite a bit. Their appointments start early around 7:15am, so many of the patients were finishing their tests just as I was beginning mine.
I felt fine in the first hour of drinking the drink. After blood draw #1, I started to feel a little woozy and sweaty. I sat back in the comfy chair and tried to relax. Because I am a little neurotic, I brought an ice pack for my neck that I had in my backpack. I also brought a tiny personal fan with me in case I needed to fan myself. I didn’t need to take the ice pack out of my bag, but just held it in my hand to help cool me down. I used the fan for a few seconds, but I didn’t really need it. I also bought a cold bottle of water with me. I was allowed to take a few sips. The cold water really helped! Soon enough, it was time for blood draw #2. I started to feel slightly better.
The easiest wait for me was blood draw #3. The end was in sight and I didn’t feel overheated at that point. I made sure to alternate arms for the blood draws (two pokes per arm). One of my arms did get a small bruise afterwards, but none of the blood draws were painful.
Overall, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined, and I did a small victory lap after I left the lab. My joy was short lived. The next day I checked my patient portal to discover that I failed the test miserably.
I allowed myself to be disappointed, scared, and annoyed over what was to come. I wallowed for awhile. This was going to be a lifestyle change for the next couple of months. I got over my initial bad feelings fairly quickly and decided to accept this new challenge. I’m not new to health challenges, and this would be another link in the chain for me. Or so I thought.
Meet my new friends. The gestational diabetes starter pack. I picked up all the supplies at my local pharmacy, and scheduled an appointment with a dietician at the Diabetes Education and Nutrition Service that works with the hospital where I will deliver.
The meeting with the dietician was very helpful! She was really informative and taught me how to prick my finger to get my glucose reading. I would need to prick my finger four times a day: right when I woke up and one hour after each meal. I would need to eat three snacks and three meals per day. Each meal has to contain a proper balance of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, fiber, and sugar. I also needed to increase my exercise. Taking a 10-15 minute walk after each meal can be so helpful in keeping your blood sugar under control.
I’m two weeks into this new lifestyle and there have been quite a few ups and downs. I try not to complain too much, as I know there are worse things in pregnancy and life. I know that. But, in an effort to be transparent, this has not been easy. Especially when you are in your third trimester, I feel like the end is in sight and you are increasingly uncomfortable by the day. You are focused on the big life change/transition that is about to happen. Then add to that finger pricks, a controlled diet, and exercise. It feels like a heavy load to carry! I have had a few meltdowns wondering how I’m going to get through this.
It has helped to change my mindset and focus on the positives of this diagnosis. I have more energy. I feel healthier and physically stronger. I’m not putting on as much weight. Most importantly, I am doing this for the baby. I want him to have the best chance at being healthy at birth and beyond.
Also, one spiked reading or one difficult finger prick aren’t the end of the world. I am still learning this. I need to breathe through it and remember that tomorrow is a fresh chance to start over. Drink plenty of water, try and practice self-care, and do something that makes you happy in between meal tracking and obtaining blood sugar readings.
There isn’t much I can say about gestational diabetes that you can’t read online or learn about through talking to your doctor and dietician. I will share a few resources that I have personally found to be helpful:
Search the hashtags #gestationaldiabetes, #gestationaldiabetespregnancy, #gestationaldiabetesmeals, and #gestationaldiabetesdiet. There are a lot of different resources under those hashtags. I’ve found ideas for meals and snacks. I also enjoy reading the personal journeys of women who are sharing or shared their stories of gestational diabetes. It helps you not feel so alone in this.
With over 18,000 members, this is a great resource made for and by moms who are personally dealing with gestational diabetes. I haven’t contributed to the chat yet, but I’ve found a lot of good information on this chat board! They also have a link to a “Gestational Diabetes Cheat Sheet” which helps to simplify the process of what it means to be diagnosed with GD, understanding this new way of eating, and also which medications you might be placed on.
You need to be approved to enter this group. Just answer a few questions about your connection to gestational diabetes and you’re in. I’m still fairly new to the group and found that it’s a lot of information to absorb in one sitting. I noticed there are some helpful meal and snack ideas. In an effort not to get overwhelmed, you can always utilize the “search” function in the group if you have specific concerns/questions. They also have a monthly birth announcements section where you can see all the adorable healthy babies that are born to GD mamas. It’s the most adorable incentive to keep going on your journey!
This diagnosis has been a challenge, but it is do-able. I’m still making my way through all of this, but please reach out if you have any questions about what I’ve shared!