So you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes (aka GD). Now what? Personally, I was devastated. How could this happen to me? Why did this happen? Did I do something wrong? What should I do?
After my doctor diagnosed me with the condition and told me all the horrible things that could go wrong, I left his office with my head spinning. I got in my car, sat down and had to take some serious deep breaths. And then I realized: everything my doctor had told me about gestational diabetes was a blur. What kit did I have to pick up at the pharmacy? What food did I need to avoid? Why was I supposed to wait a week to meet with my nutritionist if what I was eating could harm my baby? Could someone hit the rewind button, please?
To give you some background, I’m a healthy gal: I watch what I eat -- sugar is a treat, not a main food group; and I’m not a gym rat, but I exercise every day, whether I choose to walk or do yoga. I made it a point to eat super healthy from the very beginning of my pregnancy and gained a grand total of 28 pounds. So how was “I” diagnosed with GD?! Since I am not a doctor, I’m not going to get into the “why,” but I do want to share my journey and what I learned along the way.
I had to prick my finger four times a day to track my blood sugar, which I found both annoying and invasive. But I was able to use the data to help manage my way through GD and, most importantly, found a way to control it with diet and exercise. Here are seven tips that helped me cope with and manage my gestational diabetes.
1. Take a pregnant pause: First, remember that it is not your fault -- pregnancy is extremely taxing on the body. Then, take a minute (or several) to digest the diagnosis. Gestational diabetes is scary, annoying, frustrating and invasive. So talk to your partner or closest friends, and vent. Finally, surround yourself with other women whom also went through it.
2. Get educated: Gestational diabetes is a beast, so read as much as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions to your doctor. Go over the food dos and don’ts with your nutritionist, and keep a food journal, in which you can write every specific questions you may have along the way.
3. Buy a glucose machine of your own choosing: The first machine I purchased was the cheap, basic kind that my pharmacist suggested. After two weeks of use, my numbers kept being abnormal, regardless of what I was eating. So I did research and got a top-ranked glucose machine that eventually never failed me. It’s easy to go mad about your blood glucose levels, so make sure you arm yourself with reliable technology.
4. Have healthy snacks around at ALL times: Even though your nutritionist will help you map out your diabetic diet, you are pregnant and likely to get cravings. Since you can no longer give in, you’ll need to keep smart and healthy snacks around: veggies, nuts (a cup a day) and cheese were my go-to munchies. To help you resist temptations and stay strict, I suggest shopping ahead of time and having food at the ready.
5. Move: exercising will not only keep your blood sugar levels in check, it will keep your endorphins cranking. In other words, it will make you a happier person. Though there are many pregnancy-safe workouts to choose from, walking 20 minutes a day -- rain or shine -- is all you really need. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor before committing to any physical activities.
6. Treat yourself…often: it’s important to take time for yourself and find ways to turn off and not think about your next meal or your glucose levels. So find a way to relax and reflect. I particularly loved prenatal massages (I got them on a weekly basis), baths and pedicures.
7. Yes, you feel like a case study. But you are not your gestational diabetes: One of the more frustrating aspects of gestational diabetes was having to get bi-weekly to weekly ultrasounds. I had to be hooked up to the heart monitor during every visits, and my doctor reviewed my food journal like it was a college term paper. Don’t get me wrong, some cases are serious, and these invasive procedures are necessary. But it doesn’t make it any easier. All I wanted was to enjoy the end of my pregnancy, but instead, I was scrutinized and constantly reminded that there could potentially be a problem with my baby. At the end of the day, remember that you are not your blood sugar levels, that you did not do anything wrong, and that you can (and should) trust your mama-bear instincts -- believe me, they’ll kick in well before you even meet your little bundle of joy.
Photography by Stylish & Hip Kids for Well Rounded NY.