Letters to M.I.T.C: Diabetes and Pregnancy
I love getting personal mail from my readers and I recently got an email asking me about gestational diabetes and pregnancy. So, why ask a blogger? I’m not just a blogger but I’m also an experienced labour and delivery nurse AND a type 1 diabetic who has had babies, so I’ve got a bit of street cred on the topic.
During a woman’s pregnancy she will be screened for gestational diabetes. Pregnant women can ultimately choose to decline the testing for diabetes in pregnancy, however, I am FOR the screening of diabetes in pregnancy. Despite the yucky drink that all you ladies have to chug, I feel that knowing if you have diabetes in your pregnancy is vital for your own health and the health of the baby you are growing.
The letter was from a lady whose ‘surrogate’ daughter was pregnant and recently found out she screened positive for gestational diabetes:
Dear Mama in the City,
We support a lady who is struggling with gestational diabetes for the first time. She is in her 3rd pregnancy but this is the first time she has had diabetes. She attended a group session at the diabetes clinic the other day, and is starting to track her blood sugar levels but has so many questions! My question is, could you give her some practical advice about maintaining her sugar levels and not feeling hungry all the time?
Truthfully, I could write at length about living with type 1 diabetes and being pregnant but for this topic I decided to reach out to 3 different mamas who all had gestational diabetes in their own pregnancies (PS. all 3 of them are also maternity nurses). The reality of getting a new disease diagnosed while pregnant can really rattle you and challenge your every day.
“When I was first diagnosed with gestational diabetes I struggled with the thoughts that my body had failed me. I won’t lie, I cried for the first week after my diagnosis. Everything seemed very overwhelming but within a few weeks I was testing my blood sugar 6 times a day and giving myself insulin twice a day. I ate what they told me to and walked after every meal like the education clinic recommended. After tracking things, it did not take long to see what foods/meals spiked my sugars and which did I not.
I felt that the endocrinologist and the diabetic clinic I went to were excellent. They explained how diet and exercise effected my diabetes, how to do blood sugar readings, and then later how use my insulin pen. The nurse was a kind and understanding women and made a difference with how I accepted my new diagnosis. Although I am also a nurse and I give a lot of needles at work, I would still break out in a sweat whenever I had to poke my finger or give myself an insulin injection!
As the size of my belly increased so did my insulin requirements. My brain understood that increasing insulin meant that my placenta was working well, but I could never seem to stop cringing when my endocrinologist said I needed to increase my insulin dose again.
My biggest tip would be….Peanut Butter! I love peanut butter on a good day but nothing was better than a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter and a glass of cold milk as a bed time snack. A perfect protein/carb that would keep me feeling full and keep my sugars level.“
-Cheri, mom to 1 year old Katie
“The biggest challenge with being diagnosed with gestational diabetes was having to accept that I actually had diabetes! I was an athlete who did professional level competitions, I ate healthy foods, and never even considered that I was at risk for diabetes in my pregnancy. I spent most of the pregnancy in denial and I even argued with my doctor over the validity of the diagnosis. How could I be a diabetic?
It took awhile but I eventually accepted that I had gestational diabetes. Initially I blamed myself that it was something I had done, or maybe something I had not done.
For my pregnancy, despite doing what I needed to do with blood sugar testing, my sugars never stabilized during the pregnancy. I really felt like I was doing everything I was “supposed to” be doing but I never really felt like I really figured it all out. I struggled with my diabetes until the birth of my son. Once the placenta was delivered, my gestational diabetes story was over.
For me, I felt like the only thing that really helped was seeing my sweet baby boy born healthy and well. He was also not the 10+lbs they predicted!“
-Krista, mom to 11 month old Westley
“I was very surprised when I first got diagnosed with diabetes in my pregnancy. I actually did the test twice because I just did not believe the first results. However, the second bloood test was even higher so it was true. I had gestational diabetes.
I had already healthy eating habits before pregnancy and I also exercised regularly, so when I was diagnosed I just did more of the same. The only thing I wasn’t used to was the snacking that my diabetes nurse recommended to help me stabilize my blood sugars. For me, the finger pokes were not as bad as I imagined! However, cutting out sweets was really hard as I was craving so many sweet things after I was diagnosed.
In my pregnancy I controlled my diabetes just with diet and exercise, so it wasn’t too bad. What really helped me stabilize my blood sugars was the snacking between meals, cutting out the white carbs and going for a walk after meals help keep my sugars normal. What helped me survive having diabetes during pregnancy was meal planning and making sure to have lots of healthy snacks on hand so I didn’t reach for the sugary stuff I was craving. It was hard for me as I never had to watch what I eat before and I ended up really sympathizing with everyone that has diabetes after my experience.“
-Aye, mom to Kianna 1 year old
I hope that these personal stories will help someone out there who is learning how to cope with their own gestational diabetes. Bottom line, support is important when it comes to diabetes and all you can do is your best. A big thank you to the three mothers who shared their personal stories!
Did you have gestational diabetes in your pregnancy?