What is it?
Gestational diabetes occurs when your body isn’t able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, sugar builds up in the blood to high levels and doesn’t get used by your body for fuel. Too much sugar in your system can cause your baby to be large. The worst thing I experienced was feeling even more tired than normal, when my sugar was too high. I often felt sick to my stomach, even though I never experienced morning sickness.
How often does it occur, and what are the symptoms?
About 2 to 4 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, with most experiencing extreme hunger, thirst, or fatigue. You may be at risk if you’re over age 30, are obese, have a family history of diabetes, or previously gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds or was stillborn. I unfortunately, have a mother and an aunt on my dad’s side of the family who are type 2 diabetics. I was predisposed to diabetes since it ran on both side of my family.
What causes it?
This type of diabetes occurs when pregnancy hormones interfere with the body’s ability to use insulin — the hormone that turns blood sugar into energy — resulting in high blood sugar levels. During the 2nd trimester of pregnancy the doctor has you chug a sugary sprite like drink and then takes your blood to test your blood sugar level. I was way over… nearing a blood sugar level of 180. I instantly got put on glyburide and had an appointment the next day with an endocrinologist who knew everything there was to know about diabetes.
What’s the treatment?
If you have gestational diabetes, you’ll probably be able to control your blood sugar levels with diet and exercise. You will need to get 10 to 20 percent of your calories from protein (meat, poultry, fish, and legumes), less than 30 percent from fats, and the remainder from carbohydrates (bread, cereal, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables). You also may need to limit sweets. Carbs are not your friend as a diabetic. So, I ate more protein while pregnant. This allowed me to keep my weight down and to prevent my unborn child from growing too big prior to delivery.
At least once a week, you’ll visit your physician to get your blood sugar levels checked. If the prescribed diet fails to stabilize your blood sugar after about two weeks, you’ll probably have to give yourself daily insulin injections throughout your pregnancy and monitor your blood sugar levels at home. During your third trimester, your physician will track the well-being and size of your baby with tests like ultrasound and fetal heart rate monitoring. If your baby reaches a weight of 9 pounds or more, your doctor will likely recommend a cesarean delivery. But if your baby appears healthy and of a normal size, and your blood sugar levels are well controlled, you’ll probably be able to deliver vaginally.
The worst part of the gestational diabetes experience was going in for the endless hours at Maternal fetal medicine being hooked up to fetal heart monitors for 2 hours a week. Remembering to test my blood was also frustrating, but worth it.