Pregnancy can be a very difficult road, even when everything is “normal”. The many changes your body undergoes are both amazing and exhausting. At around 28 weeks, most pregnant women are given a one hour glucose tolerance test. This is done because, even if a woman has no previous history or risk of diabetes, approximately 10% of pregnant woman will develop gestational diabetes (GD). The test specifically detects higher than normal levels of glucose in the blood following a large dose of dextrose (that icky drink you have to gulp down and then wait an hour to have your blood drawn).
Depending on the results of this test, a mom-to-be maybe sent to do the three, five or seven hour testing procedure, to further diagnosis the symptoms. If the tests show that you have gestational diabetes, your life will undergo a drastic change. Depending on how severe your condition is, your doctor will like try to manage your GD with diet but may have to resort to medication. Either way it is going to take a lot of monitoring and focus from you.
You will no doubt be given a home glucose monitor. Pay very close attention to the person that explains how to use it, every monitor is different and you need to know how the one you are given works. You also want to be very clear as to when, and how often you are supposed to test, as well as what your numbers should look like. Depending on the doctor, you will be asked to test first thing in the morning, before or after each meal, and at night. You want to be very clear, as timing and eating are huge factors as to what your numbers should look like. And your expected numbers may be different than another mom-to-be’s, so be sure you understand what is right for you.
As a side note, you were likely tested for Iron deficiency at the same time as your glucose tolerance test. If you were borderline and you will now be poking your finger 4-6 times a day, you may want to discuss and iron supplement with your doctor, which will also likely mean a increased need for fiber to balance it out.
When it comes to managing your diet, portion control is going to play a huge role. The only true way to know how many carbohydrates you are ingesting is to know how much food you are ingesting. One thing to be clear on is that you cannot just cut carbs out of your diet; you are still growing a baby, and need that energy. You just want to make sure that you are not just eating sugar carbs. One of the best ways to be sure that you are getting the right type of carbs is to look for whole wheat and whole grain products. Also eating lots of beans and legumes will give you the right types of carbs. Though, it may slow you down a little bit, you need to measure out your portions so that you can accurately count your carbs. Your dietician will give you specific ranges for each meal and you need to do your best to stay close to them. You will also be told to snack a few times a day. You want more of an ebb and flow pattern to your food consumption, as opposed to a peak and valley pattern. This will help your body to better regulate your glucose levels. Another important time is to eat a small snack – a piece of fruit, a handful of carrot sticks, a graham cracker – about 30 minutes before you go to bed. This will work to prevent the raging hunger you might wake up with, which is also often accompanied by a headache.
Managing your gestational diabetes is mostly going to rely on your commitment to management and your education. There are tons of resources available both in your town and online. Your doctor will be able to direct you to local programs (many hospitals have classes, often free) that will help you to understand and live with this diagnosis. Though this issue will likely pass with the delivery of your baby, you will be at a slightly higher risk later on in life for developing Type 2 diabetes, so learning the healthy habits now will benefit you for the rest of your life.