My first pregnancy was pretty smooth sailing until the seventh month when I learned I had Gestational Diabetes. Common among Hispanics and women over 35, Gestational Diabetes (GD) is a condition in which women without previously diagnosed diabetes have high blood glucose levels during pregnancy, especially during third trimester. Although doctors aren’t sure why, women who are black, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian have an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes.
In my case, I had eaten pretty healthy (I certainly wasn’t binging on sweets or desserts) and with medical counseling I learned my diagnosis was most likely hormonally based, meaning my placental hormones caused a rise in blood sugar not mater what I ate.
For those of you diagnosed with GD, I’m not going to lie…it’s not a walk in the park, but it is manageable and the diagnosis forces you to be healthy during pregnancy (and not gain a ton of weight). Here are some things that helped me cope with GD and deliver a healthy baby in spite of having it (be sure to check with your doctor before you implement anything new into your GD self-care routine):
1. Seek a second opinion. Although I love my ob-gyn, I also saw an Endocrinologist at Northwestern who specializes in Diabetes and Gestational Diabetes. I did this for my second pregnancy and I would highly recommend it. I wish had done so for my first pregnancy.
2. Develop strategies to cope with GD “pain points.” The mandatory 2 hour fasting between meals was killer. Take a nap during those two-hour fasting windows if you can or keep yourself busy to make the time go by quickly. The fasting is what truly bothered me (and the continuous finger pricking). I only gained 25 pounds with my second pregnancy so being on the GD diet for nine months was a blessing at the end.
3. Meet with a nutritionist. She can help you develop a daily eating plan and answer any questions you may have. You can work with them to learn what works for you specifically in terms of eating times and actual meals.
4. Never skip meals or snacks. Having gestational diabetes requires eating at certain times of the day and following a diet of three moderate-sized meals and three small snacks a day. You must not skip meals or snacks; plan your meals and snacks in advance, always.
5. Keep a food log. You’ll want to note what you ate and track your blood sugar numbers. This will help you devise a strategic, personalized food plan. For example, I found that eating a 4-inch Subway Sandwich (yes, the kid size) delivered safe, steady numbers at lunch or dinner. I was also able to eat the chips that came with the meal on occasion. Let’s just say I was at Subway, a lot.
6. Drink water…lots of it! I stuck to two types of drinks on the regular basis (and still do), which are water and black decaf coffee. Try adding mint, lemon, or ginger to your water if you get bored. I never got board of water…I drank multiple large Fiji water bottles on the daily.
7. Eat protein at every meal. For breakfast, for example, eggs are good and whole wheat blueberry waffles (for example) can be your best friends. Stick to items where you can directly view the carb count (look at the total carb count, not necessarily the sugar number). Do your research before going to places like Panera so you know what’s doable for you. If you want to splurge on a muffin, only do half. Half everything that’s carb based. Avoid orange juice, stick to whole fruit if fruit does not elevate your sugar.
8. Stick to an exercise routine. Walking was my best friend. Talk to your ob-gyn after a pregnancy-safe workout routine.
9. Don’t worry yourself sick. Stress can harm your health!
10. Allow yourself a treat every now and then. Chances are you will be pregnant through at least two major holidays, birthdays, events, etc. Allow safe splurges every now and then as rewards for being a good manager of GD.
11. Remember that you are not alone! Celebrities who have access to the best trainers, doctors, and dieticians also have acquired GD. Stars like Mariah Carey, Salma Hayek and Mariska Hargitay all had GD and delivered safe, healthy babies.
12. Focus on having a healthy delivery. All the hard work and sacrifice will be worth it!
Best of luck to you! Please share with the community if you are dealing with Gestational Diabetes and how you are managing it. Remember you are not alone!!