Two Fridays ago, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was devastated. This pregnancy has been stressful enough for me, just hoping that the baby will be OK and dealing with an ever demanding toddler at the same time. I felt completely blindsided by this development. After all, I’m young, healthy, I exercise and eat a balanced diet and I have no risk factors. Yet both the preliminary 1 hour screening and the 3 hour glucose challenge showed my blood sugar levels to be elevated. All I could imagine was the hassles associated with becoming high risk and having a medically invasive birth instead of the more natural experience I was hoping for.
First hurdle was the seeming lack of sympathy of the office staff at my OBGYN. I received the call with my test results on Friday afternoon while packing to leave for a weekend trip to visit family. I was informed that my results were too high and given the phone number to another office to call and set up an appointment with a staff “who would help me deal with my weight gain and dietary issues.” In the stress of the moment I wanted to blurt out to the nurse that I eat a healthy diet and lower than typical for pregnancy weight gain and that I wasn’t overweight before I got pregnant either so why didn’t she just keep her opinions to herself. Of course I didn’t say this, and I had to remind myself that she was just doing test result call backs, she didn’t know me or even have my chart. As far as she was concerned that was the end of the phone call. I had to stop her and try to ask some questions.
I got my actual test numbers and managed to get a basic explanation of what to expect from this new specialist, including an address. Apparently the office I was being referred to has a special gestational diabetes program that will help me learn to monitor my blood sugar and control my weight gain and blood sugar levels through diet and exercise. But you wouldn’t know it from what the nurse initially said. It seemed like an absolute nightmare. Who wants to get a diabetes diagnosis right before the holidays? Part of me wished the whole thing could have been delayed until January so I didn’t have to forgo all the delicious holiday treats I had been looking forward to all year.
Fortunately the nurse at the gestational diabetes program was much more helpful and encouraging and helped to calm some of my panic. She told me not to stress about my diet over the weekend and just try to make healthy choices. Of course being the type A person that I am, I did some research and immediately began slashing carbohydrates and sugar from my diet. I ate a lot of protein for the next few days and felt completely exhausted. I did allow myself one little dessert at the family Christmas cabin party and hoped that I wasn’t going to give birth to giant baby as a result.
After our trip, Tuesday morning I saw one of the midwives at my regular OBGYN office. She was very encouraging and basically told me that as long as my sugar levels remained normal with the help of diet and exercise that this was nothing more than a blip as far as my pregnancy was concerned. I found it hard to believe but I tried to absorb her optimism. The next day I met with the dietician and nurse practitioner at the gestational diabetes program and took a class on how to manage my condition. My wonderful husband was so sweet to attend the class with me so that he can help and support me with managing my diet and hopefully exercise with me sometimes as well.
The class was informative but overwhelming. I discovered that while I did have to count my carbohydrates, I also needed to make sure I was getting at least certain number each day, just distributed throughout the day. An extreme low or no carb diet was not an option during pregnancy. This was good news since I wasn’t sure how I could deal with the constant protein and exhaustion I’d experienced the previous weekend for another three months. The dietician was very positive and encouraging. The nurse practitioner was nice enough but not as positive as I’d hoped. I was also informed that I would need three additional ultra-sounds to monitor the babies growth. I was less than pleased about this, given that faulty estimated birth weight based on ultrasound make the last few weeks of my first pregnancy unnecessarily stressful. (I was told I was giving birth to a 10 pound or more baby and should schedule and elective cesarean. Instead I opted to attempt a vaginal birth and delivered my 8 pound daughter with a 95th percentile head with no trouble).
After a week of managing my blood sugar and sticking with the diet plan (30-45 carbs at each meal plus three snacks) my blood sugar readings have been great. I have yet to have one elevated number. My morning fasting blood sugar has been especially good. I’m beginning to believe that my blood results were some kind of strange mistake, but either way I’m stuck with blood sugar testing for the duration of the pregnancy. Hopefully I will at least be able to relax and not worry too much about the baby growing too large or having any other related problems. I hate sticking my fingers four times a day. It hurts, but not the way I expected. It’s less like being stabbed with a needle and more like being flicked really hard with the sharp end of a staple. It leaves a strange stinging sensation that lasts for a good hour after the test. It is still annoying to have to have extra ultrasounds, calling my weekly numbers into the gestational diabetes program and having follow up appointments. But I’m managing. For the first time since the diagnosis I’m feeling hopeful that I may still get the birth experience I want.