*Every case of gestational diabetes is different. Hormones are a wild, turbulent force to be reckoned with. So I am speaking directly to my life and my health. I am by no means a medical professional and each case has barriers, hurdles and hopefully victories.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
“Gestational diabetes is usually defined as diabetes that develops or is first diagnosed during pregnancy. However, it can also be defined as “insulin resistance” or “carbohydrate intolerance” during pregnancy.
I prefer to rely on the latter description because, at the end of the day, gestational diabetes is the result of insulin resistance, which means a woman is unable to tolerate large amounts of carbohydrates without experiencing high blood sugar. Technically all women experience some degree of insulin resistance during pregnancy as it’s a natural metabolic shift that serves to shunt glucose and nutrients to a growing baby.This means, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s helpful to understand how and why your metabolism changes during pregnancy (and how certain dietary changes can help ensure the health of your baby).
From a biological perspective, slight insulin resistance is incredibly important since it allows a baby to survive even if a pregnant woman experiences famine or short periods of starvation. However, in our modern world where food is rarely scarce and refined carbohydrates are everywhere, this adaptation can work against us. This is especially true if a woman already has some level of insulin resistance before becoming pregnant, which is becoming more common.” – Source: Lily
Honestly, I was stunned. The news about my “new condition” was a blow to my ego, my pregnancy expectations, and my birth plan.
Why me? I eat a low carbohydrate, low sugar diet. I go to the gym 3-4 times a week for spin classes and weight lifting. I’m healthy. So how did this happen?
Thank the hormones.
I’m glad I was able to accept my diagnosis and tightened the reigns. I dread needles. So poking my finger for my blood sugar multiple times a day gave me cold sweats and the thought of having to give myself insulin nearly pushed me over the edge.
I decided I would do everything in my power to avoid insulin. For me, insulin would mean:
- Transfer of care from midwives to obstetrician. And I love my midwives. They have been by my side for 4 years. Mothered me, supported me, nurtured me. I need to trust my care giver and they have won me over.
- High risk delivery. I would have to be monitored more closely and VBAC chances would also diminish.
But even with a strict diet and committed exercise routine, my “fasting numbers” still spike. Those pesky hours between 10 PM and 6 AM when my body is left on its own to manage my sugars.
And every morning a fatalistic blood prick. Did I make it? Getting rated every morning can be extremely deflating. I could have done the exact same thing two nights in a row and had two varying results. There is not enough will power to bring those numbers down.
So ladies – please don’t be mistaken. Do everything you can within your capacity to keep your numbers on target. Exercise (if you can), eat a low carbohydrate diet, take your supplements (I have a naturopath who has helped with supplements to address pancreas function and digestion.). But at the end of the day, learning to release that control is just as important. Not stewing over “maybe if I had eaten fewer carrots and upped my protein before bed my numbers would have been better” can be hard and crushing. So try and let it go.
How I’ve Managed without Insulin
I’m a firm believer that you can do anything for a season. You can take on an extra job, you can push through studies, you can live on less sleep – and you can also be on “diet” while pregnant. Trust me, being on a “diet” while pregnant is not something I would love to do again. I would love a crunchy potato chip or an eggnog latte. The little luxuries! But this baby is more important than that beautiful, crisp, deep fried and perfectly salted potato chip … (or at least I remind myself that each night at 9:00 PM!)
A lot of my diabetes management has been discipline and will power. Exercise and diet. I have followed the principles in the book, “Real food for Gestational Diabetes” vs. traditional “system” medical advice. If I had followed the “systems” guidelines, I would certainly have been on insulin already.
I have a very sensitive immune system already, and a low sugar, low carbohydrate diet is something I’ve thrived on prior to gestational diabetes. So, I’ve just had to turn up the fire!
I have stayed active throughout all three pregnancies. Going to the gym 3-4 times a week, going for walks and just being a busy mom to two young kids keeps you on your toes! This time around, I’ve had to be diligent about going for a late evening walk. Trust me, I’ve already had to drag my butt through wind and snow. But I know exercise gives my body the boost it needs to burn some extra glucose. Some people have success with adding a carbohydrate before bed, others do better with a midnight snack. For me, going to bed NOT on a full stomach is my match for success .
Tips on how I’ve managed:
- I cook a lot.
- I eat a lot of meat and veggies.
- I researched and have been committed to my diet.
- I’ve chosen my carbohydrates in the form of high fat dairy and low sugar fruit. A latte, plain greek yogurt, cheese, raspberries …
- Walks after meals
- No carbohydrates at dinner until the next morning
- Pairing fats and proteins at each meal. Fat is your friend!!
- More walking.
- More fat.
- More protein.
- More low starch vegetables.
- More water.
Thrilling isn’t it? Actually, I find managing my diabetes time consuming. Maybe that’s the word.
What’s Next for Me
Honestly, I don’t know. So far, at 35 weeks, I’m not on insulin. The doctors measured baby and it seems to be on track – 50 -75% percentile. Babe is about 5 lbs, a normal weight for baby at this stage and is measuring on curve. My fundal height is 33 weeks when I’m 35 weeks – which is simply an indicator that I’m not growing too fast.
It looks like I will hopefully avoid insulin even though my fasting numbers have been spiking lately. There are a lot of odds against me, but I can only walk through this pregnancy and birth one week (or day?) at a time. There are some variables not in my control, which who are we kidding, life isn’t under any of our control like: VBAC, posterior position, timing (I can’t be late due to diabetes and can’t be induced due to previous C-section) and the twists labour throws at you.
But I’m trusting that my body is not a lemon. It can do this. Whatever “this” is.
… Waiting for you sweet child …