As if my pregnancy didn’t start out bumpy enough (see: Dermoid Cyst During Pregnancy), in my 3rd trimester, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. Like the mature, reasonable person I am, I handled it like a pro… not. My OB’s office called to tell me during work, so I bottled up all my emotion and made it to the end of the day. Then I went home, fell into bed and sobbed my heart out. I probably spent a solid hour crying.
Shortly after being diagnosed, my OB sent me to a class on GD and organized a meeting with a nutritionist. I found the class to be a bit of a waste of time as I’d already learned most of the information covered by hours of internet research. Sitting down with the nutritionist was where the magic happened. While I had hoped to leave with a specific meal plan (eat x for breakfast, y for lunch, etc.) instead I got a crash course on nutrition labels, a recommended number of carbs and calories for a given day/meal and a guidebook on foods to avoid/indulge.
The nutritionist told me the best thing to do is to eat like normal for a few days or a week and track my blood sugar. Then, make changes based on what foods cause high blood sugar. In hindsight, I should have listened, but I was too scared of high blood sugar readings. Instead, I took the opposite approach where I cut nearly everything from my diet and slowly added foods back in to test the water. This approach left me eating a ton of eggs, Greek yogurt, hamburgers (no buns) and cottage cheese. Eventually, I got tired of only eating a few foods and started experimenting a little more. I generally kept my meals the same so adding in a new food made it pretty easy to determine the cause of any increases in my normal blood sugar readings.
For all the annoyances about GD, there are some perks. It requires hands-down the healthiest diet I’ve ever had. I regularly ate vegetables, tons of protein and consumed almost no sugar. I also didn’t gain a single pound my entire third trimester (I understand this isn’t always good- I’d gained the recommended weight in the first two trimesters, so there was no cause for concern). If you can stick to the diet, it’s a great and healthy lifestyle and certainly helps to lose the baby weight after delivery.
Which brings us to the best news about GD: after delivery, it usually goes away. Since the placenta is the cause of GD, once you deliver it, GD usually goes away. It was always a mystery as to why I had GD when I had almost no risk factors… until I delivered. My baby was about 9lbs and the placenta was in the 4-6lb range. A typical placenta weighs 1.5lbs. It’s not much of a surprise that a placenta that big would cause insulin issues. I immediately asked the nurse after delivery if I my diabetes was gone and if I could have a cookie. She asked the doctor. From what I remember of her response, my OB laughed and said something along the lines of “did you see that placenta? She’s fine” and I enjoyed way too many cookies (obviously sticking to the diet for weight loss wasn’t for me).
I did a lot of reading on GD and diabetes in general during my third trimester. I’m the type that wants to know everything about something when it starts affecting my life (especially my food!). Through my reading I learned that there’s nothing you can do to prevent GD. Your pancreas produces insulin which lowers your blood sugar. The placenta produces an anti-insulin-absorption hormone. In most people, the pancreas is able to over-come this hormone by producing more insulin. For those of us with GD, the pancreas simply can’t keep up . There’s nothing we can do about it and your pre-pregnancy/early pregnancy diet doesn’t influence whether or not you have GD.
Looking back, I laugh at my over-the-top reaction, but at the time, I was devastated. I knew so little about GD that I could only cry. I didn’t know the difference between GD and Type II Diabetes and simply could not fathom how I’d come to have any form of it at such a young age and healthy pre-pregnancy/pregnancy weight. Now, I know and like to share my knowledge with others. There is so much misinformation about GD and diabetes in general. The internet is an incredibly helpful place when just getting started, but also a very scary place filled with horror stories. Know that if you’re diagnosed with GD (whether you expected it or not), you’re not alone and it’s not the end of the world. Throw your pity party (Lord knows I did) and then change your diet/lifestyle for the betterment of yourself and your baby. You can do it! Besides, it’s probably only temporary and anyone can cut carbs/sugar for 10 or so weeks.