Having had Gestational Diabetes during both my pregnancies, I’ve scoured the internet a fair bit for as much information as possible, but I’ve never had much luck when it comes to finding advice that comes from a woman who has actually experienced it themselves.
I appreciate that it isn’t all that interesting, but during pregnancy everything is heightened and when you’re worried about pretty much everything anyway, it’s reassuring to know that you aren’t the only one having to test your blood four times a day, inject yourself with insulin and accept that you can’t eat or drink anything fun whatsoever for nine months, otherwise you’ll have to squeeze a giant baby out of your foof. Excellent. So I’ve put together my own Gestational Diabetes Guide to help any fellow Mumma-to-be’s who too are currently enjoying this ever so tedious and annoying aspect of pregnancy.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
It’s a type of diabetes that affects pregnant women, usually in the later stages of pregnancy, but sometimes earlier if diagnosed with it during previous pregnancies, like moi. Our bodies naturally produce insulin to break down the levels of glucose in our blood. During pregnancy, our bodies are producing such high levels of crazy hormones that these can sometimes affect the way your body uses and produces insulin, so therefore your body is overloaded with sugars if it isn’t given the right amount of insulin to break it down.
Too much sugar isn’t good for you and it definitely isn’t good for a growing baby which is why your diet needs to be controlled and in some cases, medication, (additional insulin), is required to help keep your glucose levels in order.
By having GD, particularly when not managed properly, your baby is at risk of a whole host of scary things such as growing too large, developing diabetes later in life, obesity, problems during birth, prematurity, low blood sugar levels after birth and few other things which can be found here.
Your pregnancy will from now on be monitored by a specialist team. Which will also potentially result in early induction or a c-section, dependant on individual circumstances. Say goodbye to those lovely birth plans and visions of a water birth as you’ll be having a consultant-led birth from now on. Yep. I cried too when I was first told this…well sobbed if I’m honest.
You are also now at higher risk of having Type 2 Diabetes in later life. Brilliant.
You’ll have to monitor your blood sugar levels at least four times a day. Talk about boring and bloody annoying. My fingers look as if I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a piece of hay in a stack of needles.
You could potentially have to inject yourself with insulin more than once every day. It will take time to practice doing this with confidence as well as finding a part of your body that is comfortable and manageable to inject so that the insulin flows easier into your bloodstream. My legs at one point looked as if a boxer had used them as a punching bag, it was gross. It took a while to realise that the insulin wasn’t leaving my legs properly so was forming bruises and lumpy pockets of un-dispersed insulin in my legs. Attractive.
I couldn’t bring myself to inject my tummy so have now moved on to my butt cheeks which seems to be working fine and to be honest, no one wants to look back there currently anyway so I’m not too worried as to how it’s looking. As long as my blood levels are balanced, that’s all that matters.
Another downside to injecting insulin is the risk of having a ‘hypo’ if you don’t eat regularly. Hypoglycaemia- when your blood sugar levels drop too low and you feel all light-headed and faint. I’ve come over all funny on a few occasions and had to scurry around for something high in sugar to bring your sugar levels back up to normal. Which is moronic in itself seeing as you’ve been keeping away from anything remotely high in sugar!
Having gestational diabetes feels exactly like you’re attending fat club during that one actual time in your life when you were looking forward to shedding the food guilt for a while. OK, so we are all (mostly) wise enough these days to know that being pregnant doesn’t give you a free pass to eat a dozen doughnuts in one sitting. Or hit the drive through every single day. Calories, fat and sugar don’t sail through your system without skimming the sides just because you’re cooking a tiny human. Oh no, what you eat during pregnancy is really important for the growth and development of your unborn sprog. Not to mention that aftermath of having a baby. If you’ve been there before, you’ll know the squidgy-everything-kind-of-goes-saggy-sage post-pregnancy I’m talking about! Having GD literally means no cheeky syns or cheat days allowed. Aren’t we lucky?
Well in a couple of ways, yes we are and I don’t say that lightly trust me.
You’re protecting your baby. It’s better to know early on that your pregnancy and baby require a lot of additional care and consideration rather than not knowing at all. Or it being too late to do anything about it.
You will both receive additional care and support throughout your pregnancy. Which means additional growth scans to monitor your baby. You will also be seen by a specialist team of midwives, nurses and consultants, all of whom are dedicated to ensuring you have the healthiest pregnancy and baby possible. Providing you follow the level of care advised, of course.
It’s an education. Everything you learn in terms of managing a well balanced, low sugar diet is a life long benefit for both you and your new family. Who sadly are now at higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in the future. So it’s sensible to embrace these changes and adapt them post-pregnancy too.
Managing Gestational Diabetes Through Diet
There’s absolutely no hiding from the fact that having Gestational Diabetes means you have to manage/cut down/avoid all Sugar (Simple Carbohydrates) and Starchy (Complex Carbohydrates) foods.
This is the hardest aspect of having GD. Particularly if you only crave sweets stuff or carbs, so you might as well suck it up now.
As with all diets and metabolisms, foods work and react differently for everyone. I’ve sat in my diabetic antenatal waiting room for hours listening to some pregnant woman fret over high blood levels. Some from just having plain oat cakes and cottage cheese for breakfast. Whilst others have sat their sipping fizzy drinks seemingly without a care in the world. It’s a constant frustrating battle. Especially when you’re feeling so blooming hungry.
This is probably the biggest headache when it comes to gestational diabetes. What works for you one day won’t necessarily work the next day. Your hormone levels are working overtime in fits and waves through your pregnancy. There are various points when these levels might peak, usually around the 28-week mark, throughout baby’s growth spurts and developmental milestones. So what you ate one day might not keep your blood low the next day. Totes annoying.
What foods work for me might not work for you and visa versa, plus I have Coeliac Disease so I stick to a gluten-free diet anyway (double shite balls hey) so am already restricted in certain areas, but I thought it might be useful to have a few food suggestions that I’ve been enjoying (she says through gritted teeth) and experimenting with during my pregnancy…
- Humous, humous, humous…I live on the stuff.
- Cheese & Gherkins (typical pregnant chick)
- Oat Cakes
- Mini Breadsticks
- Crispbreads with hummus or cottage cheese
- Corn cakes (a tastier alternative to Rice Cakes)
- Obvious healthy choices such as cucumber, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli etc. All usually dipped in humous.
- Bolognese- homemade- no pre-made sauces- swap the pasta for Kale or Salad
- Salmon- I’ve tried all of these recipes and served with minimal portion or rice or new potatoes.
- Sausages- my favourite recipe is Jamie Oliver’s Cherry Tomato Sausage Bake. just go easy on the mashed potato when serving yours up.
- Eggs on toast with bacon and avocado
- Omelette and salad
- For more meal ideas check out Tommys.org
Medicated Gestational Diabetes
Unlike my first pregnancy, where I managed my GD solely through a healthy diet up until the final few weeks where I had to take Metformin tablets with my evening meal. I’ve had a completely different experience this time around. Despite attempting to manage it through diet, my bloods weren’t having any of it from early on. So I’ve been on Insulin with my evening meal and before bed to stabilise my fasting sugar levels overnight since the very beginning of this pregnancy.
This has been a real eye-opener in terms of what having GD for the rest of my life would be like. It’s not pretty and it certainly isn’t fun. It has definitely changed my outlook on the foods I eat and the lifestyle I lead. For the moment I can see a light at the end of the tunnel as once baby arrives, it should go away. However, there is a good chance it might rear it’s ugly head again in the future.
There’s no denying that Gestational Diabetes is a frustrating and worrying chore. But there really isn’t much one can do about it, except play by the rules. Listen to your specialists and just hope that the baby is born healthy and safely. Which is, of course, your main priority throughout this entire experience.
Despite having watched every episode of ER and Gray’s Anatomy, I’m not medically trained. All the information I’ve included in the post is what I’ve learned from my midwife, diabetic consultant and personal experience. Please refer to your specialist for any specific medical reference. Or head over to the Gestational Diabetes section on Tommys.org for more information.