Did you just find out you have gestational diabetes? (Or, are you like me and like to research everything? I get that.)
When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with my daughter, I was terrified. I was angry.
How did this happen? I didn’t put on too much weight. I ate (relatively) well, I exercised. I didn’t have any risk factors! (So I thought, turns out it did run in my family).
I like to know all.the.things, so I headed straight to Google.
Which was probably a mistake.
When you research stuff online, you tend to find information about all the bad stuff. The stillbirths, the babies who get jaundice, the health problems, the insulin dependence.
That fear is what drove me to write this article. I wanted to share all the information I learned and my totally normal pregnancy and birth experience so other mamas like me wouldn’t have to be terrified.
Your Baby Will Likely Be Just Fine
First things first: even with gestational diabetes, there is every reason in the world to believe you will have a healthy, happy pregnancy and bring home a beautiful baby.
Yes, there are risks. There are risks with any birth; they are just slightly higher if you have gestational diabetes.
Take a deep breath. Listen to your doctor. Follow the diet. And know it is going to be okay.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes non-diabetic pregnant women develop. Basically, it means your body is having trouble processing glucose (sugar), resulting in high blood sugar.
In most cases, you will not have diabetes after birth, though you will have a slightly higher risk of Type-2 diabetes as you get older. When carefully controlled, the risks to both mother and baby are minimal.
For a more detailed definition, read this post by Mayo Clinic.
What Causes Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormones from the placenta interfering with the natural insulin your body produces.
There is very little you can do to prevent getting gestational diabetes. Eating well, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight may help, but most doctors believe genes, family history, and age are the largest risk factors. Not that one extra cupcake you had.
Not that one (two?) extra cupcakes you had.
How Do You Get Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes?
Around 25-29 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor will send you to take a one-hour gestational diabetes test. You will be asked to drink a glucose drink and have your blood sugar tested one hour later. (Sometimes this drink is substituted for a very specific breakfast or jelly beans.)
If your body is processing sugar correctly, your sugars will be in an acceptable range after one hour and you will be good to go! If your sugars are high, you will likely be sent to take a 3-hour diabetes test. This test has a similar procedure, except your blood sugar will be tested after one, two, and three hours.
If you fail the 3-hour test, you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The treatments will vary, based on your doctor and your sugar levels, but I will outline the basics below.
What are the Treatments for Gestational Diabetes?
I want to start by saying you need to listen to your doctor. Your treatment will be specific to your medical history and test results. This information is just to give you an idea of what to expect. First, you will be required to take your blood sugar multiple times per day.
You will be given a prescription for a testing kit, similar to this one:
Based on your sugar levels and medical history, you and your doctor will work out a treatment plan.
There are two ways to treat gestational diabetes – with diet changes and exercise or with insulin injections.
Most doctors will start you on a low carb, low sugar diet. In most cases, this will allow you to keep your sugars under control.
If diet changes are not enough, you may be put on insulin. The daily dosage amount will be based on when your sugars are high and how high they are.
Your doctor will determine the best course of action, but most women diagnosed with gestational diabetes will start by tracking their sugars using a glucose monitor and be sent to a dietician to learn how to eat a diabetic friendly diet.
What is Gestational Diabetes Diet?
I was surprised to discover the diet isn’t just about not eating sugar. It is actually about limiting sugar and carbs. The goal is (generally, though this might vary depending upon your sugar levels) to eat two portions of protein for every one serving of carbs and to limit the overall amount of carbs you eat per day.
You will also want to eat on a regular schedule and have snacks a few times per day, so your blood sugar stays steady throughout the day. Here is a sample diet of what I ate when I had gestational diabetes:
- 9:00 AM Breakfast: Two scrambled eggs and one slice of whole wheat toast.
- 11:00 AM Snack: A handful of nuts, a cup of yogurt, or two string cheese portions.
- 1:00 PM Lunch: Baked breaded chicken tenders over a salad, with homemade vinaigrette dressing.
- 3:00 PM: Snack: Whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter (I found some that were higher in protein).
- 5:30: Dinner: Meatloaf with small baked potato and peas. Added cheese and sour cream to the potato for more protein. (We would always take a walk right after dinner, which helped with the sugars as well!)
- 8:00 Snack Before Bed: Cup of Greek Yogurt or sugar-free ice cream topped with nuts.
If you are worried about not being able to eat, don’t! You get to eat plenty; it is just about eating a more balanced diet and eating on a regular schedule.
Here are a few other gestational diabetes snack ideas:
- Carrots and hummus
- Apples and peanut butter
- Blueberries and a handful of mixed nuts
- Cheese and whole wheat crackers (I doubled the cheese to cracker ratio)
- Tuna salad on wheat thins
- Pear and a cheese stick
- Greek yogurt topped with nuts
Going out to eat can be a pain, but there is really a substitution for just about anything you want to eat. I ate sugar-free ice cream and baked with Truvia and was able to keep my sweet tooth satisfied.
What are the Birth Risks Related to Gestational Diabetes?
I am going to start this section by saying this: If you can manage your diabetes and keep your blood sugar under control, either through diet and exercise or insulin, the risks to your baby are minimal.
However, if you want to read all the complications related to gestational diabetes, here we go.
- Excessive birth weight, which can raise the chances of birth injuries and C-sections.
- Preterm birth, which can result in breathing issues.
- Raises the risks of mom and baby getting Type 2 Diabetes later in life.
- Higher risk for mom to get high blood pressure and preeclampsia
If left untreated, gestational diabetes can result in the death of the child. But remember, that is if it is left untreated.
Because of these risks, there is a good chance your doctor will want you to deliver at or before 40 weeks of gestation. This is due to an increased risk to the baby and may result in you being induced. (For this reason, it was extremely important to me that we had as accurate of a due date as possible so the baby could cook longer.)
Will I Get Gestational Diabetes Again?
Not necessarily, but you are at a higher risk to get it again. This study puts the likelihood of getting gestational diabetes in a subsequent pregnancy to be 45%.
Final Thoughts on Having Gestational Diabetes
I hope this post helps relieve some of your fears about having gestational diabetes. It is a serious medical diagnosis, but in most cases, it is completely manageable and does cause any harm to the mother or baby. You got this, mama!
If you are looking for even more information about gestational diabetes, I suggest these resources:
Definitely, check out our gestational diabetes board on Pinterest for more ideas!