Pregnancy is stressful enough without the added burden of complications. A common complication experienced by many pregnant women is gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar first appearing during pregnancy. It often does not show any signs or symptoms to the pregnant mother and must be diagnosed through a glucose test. If signs are present they may include increased urination, thirst, and fatigue. (As these symptoms are also symptoms of pregnancy, it may be difficult to notice anything unusual.) When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it took me completely by shock because I did not fit into the risk criteria. I was not overweight, was younger than twenty-five, and did not have an immediate family member suffering from diabetes.
Once diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there are many options for treatment and managing your blood sugar. Changes in diet and exercise can greatly affect blood sugar. Exercise can help to burn off excess sugar thus eliminating it from the blood. If changes to diet and exercise do not alter high blood sugar enough, there are a variety of medications to assist the pregnant woman. Insulin is usually the choice for sugar management, but there are also two common oral medications prescribed for gestational diabetes: Glyburide and Metformin.
I found that by altering my diet to all balanced meals and snacks, I was able to control my gestational diabetes. All carbohydrates, not just sugar, affect glucose in the body, and eating balanced meals can prevent high blood sugar spikes. I added protein to all my meals. By changing my breakfast meal from regular cereal and milk to an egg, high-fiber cereal, and milk, I was able to keep my sugar within acceptable ranges. For lunch and supper, I added a serving of chicken or turkey to each meal and ate whole-wheat bread. I also added in two to three brisk walks following meals to aid in blood sugar regulation. These changes in my daily routine were relatively easy to implement.
For sufferers of gestational diabetes that are not able to control through the method I was able to utilize, their choices are insulin and oral medication. Insulin is the hormone produced by the body that naturally regulates blood sugar levels. It is given through self-administered shots and is considered the safest medicinal therapy. For some women with gestational diabetes, oral medication is prescribed, most commonly Glyburide and Metformin. Their safety in pregnancy is not as confirmed as insulin, but many women prefer not having to give themselves shots.
Regular testing with a glucose monitor, around four times a day, aids the gestational diabetic in controlling their blood sugar. A person uses the monitor by pricking a finger tip and then putting blood on to a test strip. The monitor then measures the amount of sugar in the blood. Usually a morning rate on an empty stomach (called the fasting rate) and once following each meal. These readings can help a gestational diabetic know how certain foods may affect their sugar and if changes need to be made to keep sugar levels under control. Test results can also be reassuring and ease stress when glucose levels are kept in normal ranges. I found that although daunting at first, testing my blood sugar was easy with little pain.
A good aspect of gestational diabetes is that it usually resolves when the mother delivers her baby. If diabetic symptoms continue after the baby is born, the mother may have had undiagnosed diabetes prior to becoming pregnant. Women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and managing weight can reduce that risk.
After many weeks of strict control of diet, I was very happy to enjoy a milkshake at the hospital after the birth of my sweet, healthy son. The hospital employees may have found me odd ordering a milkshake so early in the morning, but it was one of the best milkshakes I ever enjoyed! The knowledge I gained during my first experience with gestational diabetes motivated me to keep balanced eating and exercise a part of my everyday routine. It also prepared me for my following pregnancies, in which I was able to successfully deal with gestational diabetes again.