At week 28 of pregnancy, I took the one-hour test for gestational diabetes with my second pregnancy. I had taken the test at 16 weeks and passed it during that time. I somewhat expected to have it again by 28 weeks, similar to my first pregnancy, and had started eating lower carb meals during the pregnancy and made general lifestyle changes between pregnancies to see if that might impact whether I had it again this time.
About halfway through the pregnancy, the Covid-19 virus precautions started. That left me with fewer things to do with my toddler and I started doing extensive stroller hikes and walks during the day to help pass the time and get her out of the house so my husband could work at home. I felt potentially that all that exercise could’ve mitigated things.
In my mind, I felt determined to “beat diabetes” if that could be possible. My obstetrician said she has seen some people who have had GD with some pregnancies and then randomly they do not have it with others. So, anything could conceivably happen.
Preparing For the Gestational Diabetes Test
Prior to the test, I ran out of time and ate a low carb, low-protein meal which I believe resulted in an unusually high blood sugar result on the test after I drank the glucola. I had also walked about 2 miles ahead of time, which didn’t seem to impact my ability to metabolize the sugar. The result was almost high enough to skip the subsequent 3-hour test, which is the regular procedure for diagnosing gestational diabetes but my obstetrician said that I still had to take it.
As a precaution, I went straight into the diet and started testing myself using my old meter, which I think was probably a good idea since I had more data to bring to my subsequent appointments. The virus precautions delayed my appointment schedule as well so I am glad that I decided to start monitoring myself.
For the test, I then decided to go to the hospital lab, where I wore a mask alone in the waiting room and had my blood tested every hour for 3 hours after having drank the glucola. I failed each of the tests though I had a nice fasting number. The verdict was in—it was Round Two of Gestational Diabetes Mellitis or me!
It’s Not Your Fault
As I said in an earlier article, if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s not your fault. You can’t “beat diabetes” and I definitely feel that though my positive lifestyle changes helped me and my health for the long-term, there was no way to stop my placenta from doing what it wanted to do. Now that I already had been on the diet and started exercising a bunch, particularly after meals, I do feel that these measures helped me manage the diabetes once I had it.
It’s very common for people who have had gestational diabetes with one pregnancy to then have it in subsequent pregnancies so I knew I was in good company! Each pregnancy is different and each experience with gestational diabetes can also be very different, so keep that in mind. In my case, it appears to be largely the same and I have been able to manage it with diet and exercise.
Some additional challenges for me this time include issues to do with the virus restrictions. Some foods that I would like to eat for the low-carb, high-protein diet have not been available at various times. Luckily there are many options and dieticians are a great resource to help when choosing appropriate foods. Some favorite snack proteins for me include cheeses, eggs, turkey burger, steak, salmon, and chicken. Meal planning in general can be stressful on the diet and this only added to the stress but when I’d see the empty meat shelves, I’d try and take a deep breath and re-think my plans. Sometimes I’d look at recipes and try to substitute other protein items instead. I keep in mind that I can still eat things I normally would enjoy, sometimes I just have to change the portion sizes.
My husband hasn’t been able to attend some of the later ultrasounds and appointments this time because of the virus restrictions at some medical facilities and that is difficult. As of now, he should be there for the birth as long as he is not sick and stays with me the whole time with a mask on. I also have been scheduled to take a virus test to make sure I don’t have the virus. If I would test positive, then they would have various other restrictions and precautions. I’ve mainly been quarantining myself just in case because I don’t necessarily want to find out what would happen in that case, if I can help it.
For my own sanity, I focus on relaxing myself and not worrying about contracting the virus. I do what I can to prevent getting sick. I have been busy with other life changes that my family is going through so in a way that has helped me not worry about the world situation as much.
I can definitely identify with people struggling with anxiety issues during this time because there have been days when it’s hard to get past the dark cloud of doubt that comes out and the intrusive negative thoughts surrounding the “what ifs” that exist. I feel better keeping busy and focusing on what I can control. I take life one moment at a time. I know my baby doesn’t need unnecessary stress and it’s not great for the insulin levels either.
Managing Diabetes With Another Child
This time around has been different since I have a toddler now to try and entertain while I’m attempting to manage my condition on a schedule. I try to include my daughter in snack time now and we sometimes have our snack while we’re out on a walk. Sometimes I take the meter and test myself on the go. She enjoys the frequent small snacks and meals! Sometimes I have to fight my husband for my snacks because he has started getting into them too because I have many various healthy snacks around the house.
Manufacturers make some pretty good protein ice creams and we’ve dabbled in quite a bit of those. I let my daughter play with her toys while I do a test and try my best to get her settled to start eating when I start eating so I can finish in about 20-30 minutes instead of grazing like I usually have to do. Ordinarily she eats and tries to get up from the table and make a mess, etc. so I would take an hour to eat. This would impact my blood sugar though so I try to consume the food faster to give myself time to process it. I communicate to my husband if I need help so I can get my snacks, meals, and tests done in a timely manner on a schedule without forgetting something.
Using Your Tools
When talking to the Maternal Fetal Medicine staff and dieticians, I had more of a Gestational Diabetes 2.0 discussion since I know the basics and wanted to get more into the philosophy of best practices in keeping the numbers regulated. I had some experiences last time where I felt if I had a blood sugar number out of whack, somebody over there would wag a finger at me like I’d done a bad job. My dietician said, “Try to challenge those kinds of thoughts because the meter is not supposed to be a tool to punish you or say that you are doing something wrong if you get a weird number that’s not in the range where we’d like it to be. It’s just a tool to use so you can be empowered about what’s going on with your body and so we can help you if you’re having a problem. That way, we can do what needs to be done to help you keep yourself and your baby safe.” This has helped me in changing my perspective this time around.
I am empowering myself by collecting data and I have a team of people helping me. Many of my friends have had to go on insulin or medication for their second pregnancies but that is because that’s the tool that they needed right now. It might happen to me and I don’t need to be upset if it does and my birth plans end up changing because I need intervention later.
I also really benefited from exclusively talking to the medical staff working on my care team. I joined some social media groups during my first pregnancy but personally feel that the best information came from the medical professionals who knew my particular needs and had experience with other similar cases to mine.
At the end of the day, listening to other people on the internet stressed me out more than it helped me. Their advice wasn’t applicable to me and sometimes made things worse. As always, this blog post is not intended to be medical advice in any way—this is my perspective and my opportunity to talk about this experience so I can process what I’m going through. Some people may relate and some will certainly have the opposite experience of gestational diabetes.
Having previously come full circle in the first pregnancy of maintaining the diet and lifestyle that comes with gestational diabetes and having given birth after that, I can say that anything I dealt with while pregnant still didn’t compare to the postpartum struggles and sleeplessness of early parenthood. Now that I know that the outcome this time will be having two young children at the same time in the house, I choose to enjoy having this baby on the inside for as long as possible even if I have some extra pregnancy hoops to jump through.