What Is Gestational Diabetes and How Did I Deal With It?

The first time I heard the term gestational diabetes was during my first pregnancy. During one of my routine visits, my midwife told me about the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). To be honest, I did not know what it was until she called me one day to tell me that my GTT result did not look good and that she wants me to take the twohour GTT. That’s when I really looked it up and started reading about it. Thankfully, my second test result was all good and life moved on. However, during my second pregnancy, I was not as lucky and ended up being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. 

What is Gestational Diabetes 

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is diagnosed in a woman when she is pregnant. When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, it means that they have high levels of glucose in their blood because the body is not producing enough insulin. Gestational diabetes does not have any uncommon symptoms which is why it is only diagnosed through a blood test, however, a few common symptoms of diabetes include a frequent urge to urinate, unexplainable thirst, and fatigue.  

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy but there are high chances that a woman may develop type 2 diabetes later in her life, therefore it is recommended to get checked every year. 

How Does Gestational Diabetes Affect the Expecting Mother and Baby?

For babies who are born to mothers with gestational diabetes, there are several risks involved, some of them are listed below: 

  • Being born overweight 
  • Low blood glucose immediately after birth 
  • Increased risk of premature birth 
  • Increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life 

Expectant mothers with gestational diabetes may have the following complexities: 

  • Delivering baby through a caesarean section 
  • Polyhydramnios, which means that there is too much amniotic fluid 
  • Induction of labour before the expected delivery date 
  • Preeclampsia, high blood pressure which occurs only in pregnancy 

My Diagnosis and What Followed

In the 27th week of my second pregnancy, I underwent the one-hour glucose tolerance test (GTT). My results showed higher levels of blood glucose than the recommended limit, which is why my midwife told me to go for the two-hour glucose tolerance test (GTT), which subsequently confirmed the diagnosis of gestational diabetes. My first thoughts were of utter dismay as I am an ardent dessert lover and pregnancy was the perfect excuse for me to fulfil all my cravings, however, things were about to change. 

In the following weeks, I had to attend a mother’s group where all the other mums were also diagnosed with gestational diabetes. We were educated about gestational diabetes, its effects on our bodies and our developing babies, and how we were supposed to tackle it from then on. I met a dietician, obstetrician and diabetes specialist who helped me understand this disease. I did some research on my own and tried to alter my lifestyle according to the guidance provided by the specialists. 

I was provided with a lot of guidance regarding my diet and nutrition, which ultimately helped me to control the blood sugar levels. I was also advised to remain physically active in order to regulate the blood glucose and was encouraged to maintain my weight gain in order to avoid any complications. Although the specialist had prescribed “metformin” for me, a medicine recommended to lower blood sugar however I was lucky to have not used it throughout the rest of my pregnancy.  

My Experience With Gestational Diabetes

Two things helped me the most in controlling my gestational diabetes without any medication, lifestyle changes and my glucometer kit. During gestational diabetes, you are required to take a limited number of carbs in every meal. Ideally, half of your plate shall contain fresh vegetables, a quarter of the plate shall have protein and a quarter of the plate shall consist of carbs. I limited my intake of any sugary drinks, sweets, starchy vegetables, pasta, flour and white rice. Another strict ritual of mine was to walk for at least 20 mins after taking lunch and dinner in order to regulate my blood sugar levels. I would also stay active throughout the day and made it my habit to not sit idle for more than 40 minutes. Avoiding sweets does not mean that desserts are totally off-limit, once in a while you can take a small portion of sweets/dessert, however, you need to balance it by working out and adjusting the carbs intake in your next meal.  

Now, something about my glucometer, I used to check my blood sugar levels 5 times a day. Once immediately after waking up, then immediately before breakfast, then before my lunch, and then two hours after my lunch and then two hours after dinner. If my glucometer showed a higher reading of blood sugar levels, I’d walk a little more in order to bring the sugar level down. When you will keep a track of your blood sugar readings for two straight weeks, you will automatically notice a pattern indicating any shortcomings on your part. It might be that on weekends your levels rise because you are not staying as active or eating well. Try to follow a routine, otherwise, you will observe inconsistencies in the blood sugar reading. A glucose meter is a very handy little kit that you can keep in your bag so that there is no excuse to miss the chance of taking your readings. As opposed to popular belief, let me assure you that it does not hurt a lot to prick your finger for a blood sample. Use a different spot on your fingers each time and it will soon heal.

What Happens Post-Delivery?

Your medical staff will test you within 24 hours of giving birth for diabetes as well as six weeks after you have given birth.  Even if you do not have diabetes in those tests, you are encouraged to get checked every year. 

By Mariyam Umar. Follow her on Twitter here.

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