Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Gestational Diabetes Monster (and why it's not that scary)

My post today doesn't really have anything to do with my theme for blogging during October, but it's something that's been on my mind, so oh well.

Sometimes I feel like the poster child for the way someone doesn't want their pregnancy and delivery to go.  It's as if I've become a "scary story" that make people afraid of ending up like me.  I'm probably being a bit dramatic, but perhaps it is because I constantly have pregnant friends and family telling me, "I have my glucose test next week - I'm so scared I'll end up with gestational diabetes, like you!"  Okay, maybe it isn't constant.  But I do hear it pretty often.  And I get it because I'm the same way.  Whenever I hear a story that involves some sort of complication with pregnancy, I immediately think of myself and hope that I don't have to go through the same thing.  That's why I don't watch the news - it's hard for me to hear about something terrible and not worry that it will happen to me.

So I just want to set the record straight.  Gestational diabetes is not that bad.

Now please don't misunderstand.  I don't mean it's not a big deal - it is, and it should be taken seriously.  If you are diagnosed, you need to be sure to exercise and eat well to avoid your blood sugar levels getting out of control.  It is something that should be addressed, but it isn't the worst thing that could possibly happen to you.

When I was diagnosed with GD while pregnant with Ellery, I thought it was the worst thing.  And it was scary, meeting with the diabetic counselor who told me my baby was at a higher risk and that I needed to perform fetal kick counts to be sure her heart hadn't stopped beating in my womb.  Definitely scary for a first-time mom.  But this time, the diagnosis wasn't scary at all.  I know what to expect, I know what to do, and I know that there are far worse things I could experience with this pregnancy.  In fact, I'm starting to see the good sides of having gestational diabetes.  It forces me to be a much healthier person, which is good for me and the baby.  And, on a completely superficial level, it helps keep my weight gain under control.  In fact, I'll start losing my "baby weight" during this trimester, which makes it that much easier to get back my pre-pregnancy body once I've delivered the baby.  Kind of a nice bonus, if you're vain like I am.  ;)

The thing that's worse about this pregnancy than my first is the timing.  We'll probably schedule a c-section the day after Christmas.  That means that during Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I'll be on a strict no sugar, low-carb diet.  Not exactly the most fun during the holidays.  But another thing I can be thankful for is not being able to be with family during the holidays!  Weird thing to be thankful for, right?  Of course I'd love seeing my family, but it'll be much easier to live without those holiday goodies if I'm not surrounded by them.  I'll miss my mom's coffee cake and my mother-in-law's kringla, but since I won't be anywhere near those treats, I won't feel quite as deprived.  One way I've been "prepared" for GD is having my gluten problem.  Over the years I've gotten used to not being able to indulge in desserts, so missing out on cake, cookies, pie, or cinnamon rolls is no new thing for me.  (See?  Look at how many calories I'm saved from because of my gluten intolerance and diabetes!  I'm so much healthier!  So much to be thankful for, right?)

Ultimately, if anyone is reading this who is afraid of developing gestational diabetes in their pregnancy, let me set your mind at ease.  Chances are, you won't.  Interestingly, I didn't have many risk factors at all.  I wasn't overweight before becoming pregnant, I wasn't in a high-risk ethnic group, and my only risk factor was that my mother's grandmother had diabetes.  All the doctors and specialists I worked with always looked at me with this funny face when I met with them, wondering where my diabetes came from.  A lifestyle change didn't make a difference, as I made it a point to avoid sugar and increase my exercise with this pregnancy.  My dietitian's best guess was that it was because of my undiagnosed celiac.  For some reason, that can lead to diabetes.  I'm not exactly sure how it works, but unless you have a gluten problem like I do, I wouldn't worry.

The cool way pregnancy works is that the placenta steals some of your nutrients to help feed your growing baby.  Hormones develop in later pregnancy to help you from having low blood sugar by resisting the effects of insulin.  So when you're pregnant, your body makes more insulin to make up for that.  Some women are unable to make enough insulin, which makes their blood sugar levels too high, which is the when gestational diabetes develops.  So yes, you may end up being one of the lucky few whose body just can't make enough insulin to make up for the crazy way your hormones are working.  But odds are in your favor.  So no need to worry.

And if you do end up with gestational diabetes, realize it's not the most terrible thing ever.  You'll eat much better, exercise more, probably have more energy, and won't gain as much weight.  It's annoying to have to test your blood sugar four times a day, and very annoying to see pregnant women who eat a much worse diet than I do somehow avoid getting GD.  But there are lots of annoying little things about pregnancy.  Just enjoy every little kick from your baby, and remind yourself that it's only three months of your life.  Then you'll get to enjoy a lifetime with the little person inside you, the little person who is totally worth three months of being on a "diet" during pregnancy.


  1. Nice post. It's great to hear that your experience has been better this time since you knew what to expect and have been good about sticking to it. I really didn't know much about GD, so this was very interesting to me.

  2. Thanks for the clarifications, Kimmy. It’s not surprising why an expecting mother would fret when she is diagnosed with gestational diabetes. There are a lot of possible complications that the mother and child could get due to this condition. But as you’ve said, it can be easy to deal with, as long as the pregnant mothers try to avoid doing things that might worsen the condition.

    Sabrina Craig @ Medical Attorney