My Take On Gestational Diabetes So Far: It’s Not That Bad

I’ve now made it to the 36 week mark in my pregnancy.  No doubt about it — I have a month (or less) to go.  I’ve been dealing with gestational diabetes since the beginning of May, and so far, it’s really not that bad.  Now, I’m not saying that’s the same experience everyone is going to have.  I know that different people have different levels of insulin resistance in pregnancy, and some have a much harder time than I have had managing their gestational diabetes through diet alone.  But at least for some (including me) it’s really not that bad.

I had a doctor’s appointment last week (apparently, I’ll be having them every week between now and when the baby is born) with an ultrasound (or sonogram?  I can never keep those straight — this was the one with the pictures) and my baby is currently measuring at 6 lbs, 6 oz.  Which sounds huge to me, but evidently is in the 55th percentile, so pretty much average.  Given that one of the major potential complications of gestational diabetes is having an overly large baby, it’s pretty comforting to know that he’s average so far.  My doctor has told me that the latest I will have this baby will be July 23 — my due date.  Because of the diabetes, they don’t want to risk him staying in too long and having the opportunity to get even larger, so he’ll come out on July 23 unless he decides to come out sooner than that.  But really, other than having my last possible day be July 23, rather than August 6 (which would have been 42 weeks, and before the diagnosis of gestational diabetes would have been my latest possible induction date) there is very little that has changed, as far as the pregnancy goes, due to my gestational diabetes.

On a day to day eating basis, a lot has changed.  I am supposed to eat 6 times per day, as opposed to my usual 3 or 4.  At each meal, I am supposed to have 2 servings of protein, along with 2 servings of carbohydrates.  I find that shocking.  I always thought diabetic people couldn’t really eat carbohydrates?  But actually, my carb intake is pretty seriously enforced.  The spacing between my meals/snacks is also pretty strict — no fewer than 2 hours, no more than 3.  That is so hard to do with my work schedule.  I’ve managed to make it work so far (and I only have one more week of work, so I only have to make it work for a little longer) but it is really a struggle.  I find it funny that some of my food is a “meal” and some is a “snack”.  With the exception of dinner (an extra serving of carbs — how weird — with that) every single meal/snack is basically the same:  2 servings of carbs with 2 servings of protein.

I also find it fascinating to be able to track the way my body is reacting to sugar.  I’ve always had a pretty mathematical view of diet/weight loss.  Calories in – calories out = weight gain (or loss, if it’s negative).  I’m sure that on some level, that’s still true, but it’s much more complicated than that.  For example, eating half an apple with breakfast will make my blood sugar numbers way too high, but I can have almost a cup of ice cream with dinner and be totally fine.  Some to all of that is hormonal, since my diabetes is induced by my pregnancy hormones, but it’s still wild.  I have been shocked to learn now some “good” foods do bad things to me, while some “bad” foods aren’t as bad as I expect.  I’m also amazed at how the same food eaten at two different times of the day can have a different effect.  I can tolerate so much more in terms of carbs and sugars after about 7:00 than I can earlier in the day.  The weirdest thing has been my morning (fasting) blood sugar numbers.  Through most of my testing, these numbers have been consistently bad.  Only by a little (90 – 100 when they should be under 90) but pretty consistently in the 90 – 95 range.  I’ve finally fixed this — by eating more carbohydrates before going to bed at night.  My blood sugar numbers are lowerin the morning when I eat more carbs at night.  Talk about counter-intuitive!  (Apparently it has to do with the way your liver reacts to running out of food overnight and something to do with the sugar your body creates by breaking down fat being harder to react to, but either way, it’s weird.)

Most days, I have a hard time forcing myself to eat as much in a day as I’m supposed to.  But it’s really changing my perspective on food.  I’ve heard ultra-healthy people refer to “food as fuel” before, but I never really embraced the concept.  Now I totally understand it.  When it’s time for me to eat a meal/snack, and I don’t have anything in mind beforehand to eat, I find myself standing in the kitchen reading food labels until I find things that add up to the right numbers.  Most of the time, I’m not particularly concerned with how well anything goes together in terms of taste or flavor, just how the numbers add up.  It’s definitely a new perspective.  That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes want to eat some particular thing.  Strawberries, in particular, are a craving of mine.  So, if I wake up in the morning craving strawberries, I will think for a few minutes about how I can work them into a meal/snack or two throughout the day, and I’ll actually look forward to getting to have them.  But by and large, I’m finding myself less and less excited about food.

For the past week I’ve been on vacation from work, and I’ve been a little less strict with myself about my food.  It’s really interesting — I didn’t go crazy and binge on sugar when I allowed myself to relax a bit on my diet.  I still don’t want to binge on sugar for the obvious reason that it isn’t good for me and the baby, but it’s more than that — it doesn’t feel good.  I definitely feel the best when I eat the way I’m supposed to.  I have more energy, I feel more balanced (emotionally) and I don’t really get hungry.  I don’t think I will continue this diet exactly after having the baby — it’s too restrictive, and there are too many things that I like and which I believe are actually good for me (like fruit) that I’ve cut back on.  But I have learned a lot, and it isn’t that hard to manage.  I definitely have a new perspective on the whole “balanced diet” thing.  I used to think that was unrealistic, and that it didn’t really matter where the calories were coming from, just how many were coming.  But I can see my body reacting differently to the things that I eat, and I can see that the reaction is different based on the balance and combination of different nutrients.  I am already planning on the “off limits” foods that I can have in the hospital after the baby is born, though.

Overall, gestational diabetes hasn’t been that bad.  I hope that in subsequent pregnancies, I don’t have to deal with it, and it has served as serious motivation to be less overweight the next time I become pregnant.  But in terms of things to worry about, it should barely measure as a concern for an expectant mom.  It isn’t fun, but it’s it isn’t hard.

5 Responses to “My Take On Gestational Diabetes So Far: It’s Not That Bad”

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  2. Em says:

    I would also like to note that in my second pregnancy (baby #2 was born in September 2010) I wasn’t diagnosed with gestational diabetes at all. That was the best news I could have heard!

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  4. Amber Pon says:

    Thank you for your insight… seems we are going through some of the same things..maybe we can find each other on facebook for support! use my email address to find me if you wanna

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