Whoever said pregnancy was easy? I know I for one have had my fair share of ups and downs (as you might have already gathered!). But in general, since discovering we were finally pregnant (and minus the standard first three months with tiredness and sickness) – I have absolutely loved the pregnancy so far! Sure, I have had a bad back, sleep hasn’t been the easiest, the struggles with getting used to your ever-changing body shape, declining cardio levels and constantly feeling like a baking hot oven… But who cares? I literally cannot wipe the smile off my face, and just feel so incredibly lucky to be carrying a healthy baby boy. But then as with most pregnancy and it’s many (many) curveballs – I had a bit of shock news a few weeks back…
The Initial Shock
So it turns out that I have developed Gestational Diabetes in the third trimester. Never heard of it? Me neither. And my first reaction was a flood of tears and confusion, as I am so healthy! I have spent my life dedicated to a wholesome, low sugar and nutritious diet – so if felt so unfair initially. I did however quickly realise it has nothing to do with my diet. It’s basically high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth – which occurs if your body cannot produce enough insulin (a hormone that helps control blood sugar levels). However equally frustrating; at least it wasn’t something my diet had done to cause it…
Now there is a lot to be said and read about Gestational Diabetes, so I am not going to bore you too much with all the facts and details, other than a basic top line overview of what it means, and what the next steps are for me…
What Does It All Mean?
Gestational Diabetes on the off-set, and if you start reading about all the potential side effects and risks on the official NHS website – can sound quite scary. Certainly not ideal for someone who is already emotionally charged and nervous, and not something one should be reading too much into (as not everything will apply to your case). Although of course, it gives you the overall overview, but every person is different, and at various stages. However, below are some of the main risks worth knowing about…
– Your baby can grow larger than usual – this may lead to difficulties during the delivery and increases the likelihood of needing induced labour or a caesarean section
– Polyhydramnios – too much amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds the baby) in the womb, which can cause premature labour or problems at delivery
– Premature birth – giving birth before the 37th week of pregnancy
– Pre-eclampsia – a condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy and can lead to pregnancy complications if not treated
– Your baby developing low blood sugar or yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) after he or she is born, which may require treatment in hospital
– The loss of your baby (stillbirth) – though this is very rare
– Having gestational diabetes also means you’re at an 50% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future (which means one has to be tested for diabetes every year for the rest of your life)
So naturally after reading this, I was pretty upset (and slightly stressed!). But these are all worst case scenarios, and I have no choice but to stay focused and keep positive.
I have also been warned that I am now a ‘High Risk’ patient when it comes to the labour – which means I might not be able to have the natural water birth that I initially envisioned. When that said, I have had so many of you lovely readers reach out since discovering I was diagnosed with GD, saying that they all went to full term and managed to have a natural birth, even with having GD. So there is hope! The key now is to keep calm, monitor the sugar levels and if all goes well, I will be fine to go to 40 weeks without any complications. Let’s keep those fingers and toes crossed!
So after being diagnosed, I was quickly informed that I would be having bi-weekly check ups and scans for extra monitoring. Which on the off-set didn’t bother us at the slightest – I love having scans, and it’s definitely not a bad thing having the midwives and doctors keeping a close eye on you!
I have also been given a Home Glucose testing kit – which means I have to test myself 4 times daily: upon rising (fasted), 1 hour after breakfast, 1 hour after lunch and 1 hour after dinner. It’s a real faff, there is no denying it: it’s really important I test near enough exactly one hour after each meal (which means the kit is with me at all times and I constantly have to keep a track of the time), and the prick testing is sore. Although I have been doing it for a week already, and my bruised fingers are getting more and more used to it…
Changing My Diet
Naturally my diet has had to change immediately. Luckily it was never filled with chocolate, sweets and cakes from before, so I have just had to make some core adjustments, which are much more strict, controlled and monitored. I mean, it does still feel so unfair, which so many of you guys have pointed out. Being so healthy for years, and now when I am pregnant – which is the one time when one of course needs to be healthy, but one can be more relaxed about your diet with occasional treats and cravings… Sadly not my case. It’s low-carb, high protein and no-sugar all the way until labour.
I am also one of those people who never does anything half-way and am very strict when I first start something – especially now, when it can affect my baby boy. So as soon as I found out, I did loads of research myself (I was recommended this site, which has proven to be very useful), took some of the NHS diatician advice on board (although to be honest, I didn’t agree with everything which was recommended – Diet Coke and Weetabix is OK?!), and have started seeing a Clinical Nutritionist (more on this to come in a few weeks). The key for me is having more protein in my diet, which I know I am lacking, being a vegetarian who is also extremely low in iron (more on that in my next Baby Diaries). So lots of sardines, mackerel, fish, beans, dark leafy greens, yoghurt, good fats…
Food Pairing is also very important, as it helps to slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream. So making sure to always adding some protein and good natural fats to help stop the fast excessive peak in blood glucose. Some examples of this would be to add an egg, cheese, avocado or fish to your wholemeal/rye toast – or adding some good quality nut butter with your apple.
Staying active is also very important with GD – they even recommend to go for a 20-30 min stroll after every meal, which is a great way of naturally lowering your blood sugar levels. I have to admit, I have found the exercise after meals quite difficult (my natural instinct is just to slump on the sofa!), but I am getting in my daily walks, weekly yoga and PT session – which hopefully is helping!
Pushing For a Re-test
Finally, I would like to mention that I am pushing for a re-test. The reason I want this is because my results came back just slightly above the threshold. I had just got back from an indulgent 10 days in Norway (which might, or might not have affected it), but I just feel like I want to be re-tested for that extra peace of mind, as I know how much your levels can change hour from hour, day by day. I have also found out that many hospitals even have different parameters of levels (which is crazy!) and if I would be living in Ireland or Scotland, I wouldn’t even have Gestational Diabetes!?
Initially they said no to re-testing, which was so frustrating as my levels were literally on the cusp. But I am meeting my consultant for the first time next week, and my home glucose testing levels have been pretty low and stable, so fingers crossed…