I have always been afraid of becoming diabetic. My grandmother has diabetes as well as my grandfather’s sisters. I have childhood memories of asking my grandma why she couldn't eat this or that, my uncles having talks with her about her health, my grand-aunts poking themselves in the stomach with insulin.
It has always been in the back of my mind.
My mom hasn’t been diagnosed. Yet.
But there’s still a chance it could develop due to eating and exercise habits.
I always thought of my mom as my “shield”, thinking to myself, “Well, she isn’t diabetic so until she is I don’t have a REAL reason to worry.”
I know better. Deep down inside I knew this wasn’t true. But I never had to really deal with it.
Until I found out I was pregnant.
For the record, I’m the type of
pregnant woman who researches A LOT of information. I don’t stop at one source. I’m always looking for conflicting reports to see which one makes the most sense. If I can’t understand the science behind something, I keep looking for a source that can explain it in small words.
So once I found out I was pregnant, I’ve been reading books, joining internet forums, and signed up for a 12-week birthing class (shortened to 10, 2 more classes to go!). I like to be well-informed and never feel comfortable taking someone’s word for something.
That being said, I researched the tests doctors use to diagnose Gestational Diabetes and almost immediately was filled with fear that I wouldn’t pass. I know my family history. I know my risks (being a Pacific Islander and overweight pre-pregnancy, and being over 25 during my first pregnancy). During my research I came across articles written by midwives and OB/GYNs that explained why the Gestational Diabetes test(s) was/were faulty to begin with (I plan to explain this in another post).
I also know that being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (GD) would be a hindrance to my plan of having an unmedicated birth. Now some of you might wonder what is the big deal of giving up and unmedicated birth for the safety of your baby and yourself??
Well, according to my research uncontrolled GD causes macrosomia (large newborns, think 9+ pounds), pre-term labor, low-blood sugar for baby after birth, and a bunch of other things I can’t remember off the top of my head. With those risks, a lot of my choices are now taken away.
It is devastating.
Also, being diagnosed with GD automatically labels me as a high risk pregnancy, meaning the original plans I had for my baby’s birth have a higher chance of flying out the window.
-Intermittent fetal monitoring: I do not want to be strapped to a monitor the entire time in labor. I want freedom to move around (very important for pain management). If my blood sugar is out of control, I will have to be monitored constantly and strapped to a bed.
-IV-hookup: It is not required in normal, healthy pregnancies to be hooked up to IV fluids. I prefer to be hydrated with my own choice of liquids. But if my blood sugar drops or is out of control, my doc wants me hooked up to an IV to receive glucose water.
-Induction: No matter what, controlled or not, my pregnancy cannot go past 40 weeks for fear of a large baby. I have no choice now that I’m high risk. Research shows that some babies don’t arrive till 41+ weeks and are perfectly healthy! This is due to an off-estimate of the due date. But for me? NO choice, no matter what. The only say I have in the matter is to try natural induction methods before my 40 week deadline.
That's a lot of pressure to deal with!
So when the time came for me to do the 1-hour Glucose Screening Test, I was nervous to say the least. I was told to fast for 10 hours before the test. I was given a Glucola drink that contains 50g of glucose. An hour later they drew blood to test my blood sugar. My blood sugar needed to be below 140 to pass. It was 183!
As soon as I got the news, I was a crazy wreck. I now had to take the 3-hour test and I knew for sure I would fail. I cried after I got home from work (um, let's be honest. I cried at my work desk). Felt like a failure. Like I already let my baby down and put it at all sorts of risks.
I tried to ask my doctor if I could at least postpone it. After an emotional call where I asked him about GD and what would change to my birth plan, I was still shaken up. I burst into tears right after hanging up with him (again at the office. I think I'm building the reputation of THE crazy hormonal pregnant woman).
I was so scared of the results and what the label would mean to the medical staff.
Needless to say I failed the 3-hour test and was diagnosed with GD.
The good news? My fasting test was great (72, needed to be below 95)! My doc is pretty positive I can control my sugar levels through diet and exercise alone.
If I can’t, I’m put on an anti-hyperglycemia medication (pill). If that doesn’t work, then I need to take insulin.
He explained that I’d have to attend a diabetes class and take blood-glucose tests (finger pricks) 4 times a day.
And that if I didn’t control it, my baby could get really big, have breathing problems after birth, and even die (yeah, I burst into tears after that one!). He shared that one of his current patients didn’t care at all about managing her GD and now her baby’s ultrasound is showing signs of a heart defect.
Cue more bawling.
(To my doctor's credit, he's not the type to use scare tactics. This info is taken out of context to show the severity of the situation. During our conversation I told him I wanted to know all of my risks and options. I asked, he delivered.)
The next few days were tough. I had no diet plan and was scared. I limited my carbs and sweets but wasn’t sure if what I was doing was enough.
I finally got signed up for a Diabetes class where I learned how to plan my meals and take my blood tests. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. I also have a meeting with a endocrinologist to discuss my results next week.
The positive outcome of all this:
I’m learning to eat better. I get the gist of healthy eating (did you read above where I like to conduct extensive research? This applies here as well LOL) but now that I have a meal plan I have a better understanding of how my body reacts to carbohydrates. I've learned that my body is better able to handle carbohydrates if I have some sort of veggie and A LOT of protein. Which is what I should be eating anyway.
My husband is eating better. Because he eats what I eat (at home anyway, he’s on his own when I’m out of town or if he’s at work).
I'm moving more. Early in my pregnancy I literally just stopped working out. After my first 5K, I just stopped. I wanted to rest and I was sooooo tired all the time. I would fit in light walks here and there. But now? Walking for 10 minutes after meals helps keep my blood sugar down. I can usually only walk after lunch and dinner (the time after breakfast is usually spent in traffic. Boo!) but I've already noticed a difference in my test results.
It’s temporary. The strict diet of carb counting is only until I give birth. Obviously I will still be watching what I eat after baby is here but the strict monitoring of my blood sugar levels and my meals by my eagle eye docs will be a thing of the past.
The past few days have been OK. I’ve had a few spikes in the beginning that had the endocrinologist worried but today has been good.
After a week of feeling like I was trapped in a tornado of chaos and feeling so out of control, I am now confident in myself and my ability to do what is healthy for me and my baby.
I got this.