There are so many milestones and markers that come along with a progressing pregnancy. Every week it can be both exciting and scary to see how your body and baby are changing. I know one big milestone that I had been curious and nervous about was my 28 week glucose screening. As a Certified Diabetes Educator, I was interested to see the process first hand, but as a first time mom I was pretty nervous. During this appointment, you do not have to be fasting and you are asked to drink a 50 gram glucose drink (called glucola) that is about 10 oz within a 5 minute period. This is used to screen for gestational diabetes which can be defined as either diabetes that develops during pregnancy due to an increase in placental hormones, among other factors, or pre-existing diabetes first recognized during pregnancy.
The morning of my glucose test
Prior to my appointment, I ate a fairly normal breakfast of scrambled eggs with cheese and 1 Cup of strawberries. I knew it was so important to continue to eat normally prior to your test! At the appointment, the nurse gave me the 10 oz bottle and “started the clock” to drink it within 5 minutes. For those who are not used to eating a lot of sweets or sugary beverages the drink is a little startling. It tasted like a flat orange soda or overly sweet sports drink. It is amazing how quickly 5 minutes goes by and I had to chug the last few sips. I was then taken to the exam room to wait the 1 hour prior to getting my blood drawn. Honestly, the hardest part was not being able to drink any water during this time. I felt a little shaky and my heart was definitely racing while I waited. After 1 hour it was finally time to get my blood drawn and I was feeling pretty faint at this point. I was told I would be called with the results in a day or two.
Two days later
“You did not pass the glucose screening.” Two days later the nurse called me to tell me that my blood sugar came back at 161 mg/dL. This was decently above the 140 mg/dL cut off for the screening. I was honestly in shock. She went on to tell me I would need to schedule a 3 hour glucose tolerance test at a lab as soon as possible. That meant I would have to drink double the sugar in a 100 gram 10 oz glucola and stay for 3 hours to have my blood sugar tested at each hour. I knew how bad I had felt from the 50 gram drink and was really nervous about how I would make it through 3 hours, while fasting this time! I went the following Monday and this time the drink tasted almost more like syrup and I thought I may throw up during that first hour. My body did not know what was going on. Fortunately, I was able to drink water throughout this one and I sat in a chair and read to distract myself. In order to pass this 3 hour test, you have to have at least 3 of 4 normal readings from the fasting (< 95 mg/dL), 1 hour (<180 mg/dL), 2 hour(<155 mg/dL), and 3 hour (<140 mg/dL) glucose checks.
Then I got the news
Once again, 2 days later I received the call from the nurse, “you failed the 1 hour and 2 hour readings, you have gestational diabetes”. Luckily, I was able to share that that since I was a dietitian and certified diabetes educator I felt confident in what I was doing.
However, even though it is my job and I have an extensive knowledge of diabetes and nutrition, I was devastated. I couldn’t help in that moment feeling like I had failed or done something wrong. The only risk factor that I had for gestational diabetes was that I’m over 25 years old. I immediately started thinking about the worst case scenarios of how my baby may be negatively affected. I thought of all the clients who had come to me in the past describing this feeling that I was now experiencing first hand. After about an hour of throwing myself a pity party, I went to the pharmacy and picked up my blood sugar meter. I have continued to eat how I normally would with balanced meals of lean protein, high fiber carbohydrates, vegetables, and unsaturated fats. I make sure all of my snacks contain both carbohydrate and protein. I walk everyday and do yoga some days. I have been checking my blood sugar 4 times per day for the past 6 weeks with only 2 readings outside of normal range.
The bottom line is that gestational diabetes can have serious adverse effects on you and your baby if uncontrolled, but it is not impossible to maintain well controlled blood sugars with diet and exercise. It does take a little extra thought and time, but ultimately it has helped give me even more focus on what I am putting into my body and listening to what my body is telling me that it needs.
I want anyone reading this to know that a diagnosis of gestational diabetes does not mean you failed or you did anything wrong.
I’m thankful that I now can understand first hand what women with gestational diabetes are experiencing and can speak to the actual experience. Here are my top tips for moms with gestational diabetes!
5 Simple Steps to Maintain Well-Controlled Blood Sugars in Pregnancy:
- Know Your Numbers! A lot of women are afraid of checking their blood sugar because of the needles or fear of “failure”, but this is truly your best tool in knowing how your diet and exercise are affecting your blood sugar and your baby. These numbers are not a reflection of your self worth.
- Eat every 2-3 hours to help keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. Eating smaller portions more often will also prevent you from getting too hungry which could lead to overeating and heartburn later.
- Carbs + protein are your best friend when it comes to maintaining good blood sugar control and managing your hunger. Eating carbs alone may spike your blood sugar and cause nausea. It is important to eat carbohydrates throughout the day (don’t avoid them!) to give you and your baby energy, but always make sure to pair with a protein like whole grain bread with peanut butter or a piece of whole fruit with a cheese stick.
- Daily Movement! Nothing new here, it is always so important to keep your body moving. During pregnancy you don’t have to be doing crazy cardio workouts to get benefits. Simply walking for 10 minutes after meals can help your body use the sugar in your bloodstream for energy. It can also help improve circulation in your lower legs to decrease some of the swelling you may be experiencing.
Diabetes is my specialty, and if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or just want some extra help with nutrition throughout your pregnancy, I would love to work with you. Click here to set up your FREE 15 minute discovery call!