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Coping with Gestational Diabetes
This is strange territory. Even though I’ve been pregnant many times, I’ve never had gestational diabetes. Adjusting to changes in my diet, administering injections, and handling my changing moods hasn’t been easy. However, the things I do to cope with my temporary condition make it easier.
Disclaimer — I am not a doctor, nor am I any other health professional. The opinions in this post are mine, developed from my own research. If you believe you may have gestational diabetes, please see your doctor immediately.
Getting my gestational diabetes diagnosis…
I had a feeling that something wasn’t right for a while, but I never thought I was experiencing gestational diabetes signs.
I had been waking many times in the night to go to the bathroom, never thinking that was a sign my blood sugar levels were too high. After all, it was cold out, our heat is dry, and I was drinking a lot of water.
I’d been feeling nauseous to a different extent than morning sickness. It was really more than just nausea, my stomach hurt. I’d just written it off as being part of being pregnant.
Another thing I wrote off to pregnancy was fatigue. I was so tired, all. the. time.
Because this pregnancy is considered a “geriatric pregnancy,” my doctor had already told me I’d be tested twice for gestational diabetes. One of those times would be during the first trimester. It evidently tends to show up sooner in older moms. Lucky me!
I’ve read several times about how nasty and bad for you the glucose drinks are at the OB doctor’s office. That meant I would have to drink that nasty stuff twice.
I put my foot down…
I decided I wasn’t going to do it. This test was happening one time and one time only. If it came back abnormal I would be more than happy to log my blood sugars and send them to my doctor, without enduring the glucose test a second time.
So, when my test came back abnormal, slightly too high. I willingly purchased a blood sugar monitor and supplies, and began to keep track of my blood sugars. (This kept me from having to repeat the test on a larger, 3-hour scale.) I just knew this was something I was going to be able to handle on my own, by adjusting my diet and adding more exercise. You know, making a couple of simple changes would make all the difference.
Then, it didn’t. After adjusting my diet and adding in exercise, the only blood sugar level that I was having trouble with was my fasting blood sugar. I monitored and made adjustments for two weeks and my fasting blood sugar levels were still hovering between 96 and 115, too high.
How in the world was I going to be able to adjust that one? I wasn’t eating in the night. I was trying not to eat too late at night. No snacks or sweet drinks after 6 or 7 p.m. Nothing seemed to be working. I was being very stubborn and I was disheartened at the same time. Here I am “old” and pregnant and I can’t even eat what I want. Yes, I’m aware I was being terribly selfish and infantile. Those weren’t my finest moments.
My doctor insisted I go to the diabetes center in our area for an evaluation. I reluctantly made the appointment. I could not believe this was actually happening to me. My eighth, and most likely last, pregnancy had given me gestational diabetes.
Seeing my gestational diabetes dietician…
The day came when I went for my appointment and my nurse dietitian was so sweet! She made me feel at ease and so comfortable talking to her. We looked at my food log and she assured me that nothing I had done was the cause of this. That because my blood sugar levels during the day were able to be maintained, that this had to be my baby’s placenta causing the problem.
We made some tweaks to my diet plan to see if they would make a difference over the next few days and discussed pharmaceutical options just in case they were needed.
Even though I was still a little upset, I felt better. So, I started doing a little research.
It turns out, everybody is different and what my body might tolerate someone else’s that is diabetic or has gestational diabetes may not. Because my daytime blood sugars are normal, as long as I’m sparing with the carbohydrates, mine is easier to manage. One serving of most foods that contain an abundance of carbohydrates doesn’t usually affect me too much.
Coping with Gestational Diabetes
#1 Mindset Shift
When I found out that I had gestational diabetes, it put me in a horrible place. I was angry, sad, and just frustrated. How in the world was I going to be able to feed my family who loves carbohydrates on a budget and me not eat any? Luckily, I didn’t have to, but I did have to change my mindset in order to change my attitude.
I decided to look at it this way. This is a geriatric pregnancy. Basically, I’m a pregnant old lady. Not really, but kind of. I could probably use more monitoring. Would it really hurt to see my baby more often on ultrasound? No, it wouldn’t. And, maybe God knows something about this pregnancy that I don’t and this little setback is for my own good.
Sometimes, you just gotta find the silver lining. It took me a couple of weeks to find it, but I did and I’ve been better ever since.
#2 Small Gestational Diabetes Diet Changes Can Make a Big Difference
I didn’t have to make gigantic life-altering changes. I’ve made a few trades and they’re working well. I still get to have some of the foods I want to eat, just in smaller portions.
I buy more fruits and vegetables and also started buying more whole grains. Instead of white rice, my family now eats brown rice. I just don’t tell them about it, they never know the difference, thankfully. I limit my bread intake and eat whole wheat when possible. Limiting anything else that might contain carbs also helps.
The dietary guidelines given to me by the dietician mainly concern carb consumption, but also encourage more fruit and vegetable intake. The guidelines are catered to your weight as well as a few other factors.
I still have chocolate on occasion and a small piece of cake or another dessert if it’s a special day. I don’t have as big of a piece as I used to, but that’s one of my trades, at least I’m getting to eat a few things I really want.
#3 Medications – Insulin in Gestational Diabetes
Keep in mind, I was still thinking I could control this with dietary changes.
After making the changes the dietitian had suggested, I was still having problems with my first-morning blood sugar reading. The one that I had no control over.
While I was with the dietitian for my evaluation, she discussed medications with me. At this particular facility, they no longer suggested using oral medication to control gestational diabetes. They’d found that oral medications cross the placenta and the baby didn’t need the medicine, I did.
The dietitian suggested, if I thought there was any way at all that I could give myself an injection, I should go that route. That’s the decision I made and I’m glad I did. After speaking with my OB she told me evidence suggested one of the medications used for gestational diabetes could be causing breathing problems in newborns at birth. Of course, I don’t remember what it was and I’m not qualified to get real technical in this post.
Administering the Meds
I’ve been giving farm animals and pets shots for a long time. I’ve purchased vaccinations from our veterinarian and given new puppies and new kittens vaccines. Surely, I could inject myself. I still wasn’t thinking I would really, actually, have to inject myself.
Well, the time came. I had done all I could do on my own. The prescription for my insulin and syringes was sent to the pharmacy. I gave myself the first injection with a deep breath, and a 3-2-1 GO, and it was done. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. The needle was so tiny I hardly even felt it. Getting stung by a wasp hurts worse. Seriously!
It took several days of tweaking my meds to get the insulin dosage just right, but I feel so much better with the insulin than I did without it.
When I found out I was pregnant, I wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I knew I needed to step it up a notch after I got the gestational diabetes diagnosis.
Through my research, I had found out that diabetes can make you cranky, I was definitely that. It can also make you tired, check check.
I began to give myself some grace and started going to bed a little earlier. I gave myself permission to go to bed at 8:30 every night. Some nights I had to work like mad, when my husband had to work late, to get the kids down on time. I don’t necessarily go to sleep at 8:30, I just rest and watch TV until around 9:30 or 10.
When I get tired, I roll over and go to sleep. Giving myself permission to not be sociable has also helped. By 8:30 or 9 I feel like I have made all the decisions that I can make in a day’s time and if I’m asked a question that late at night I’m liable to snap or bark at the questioner.
I’ve also given myself permission to treat myself about once a month to a mani-pedi. It helps me relax and makes me feel like a new woman. Before this pregnancy is over I may even get a massage.
Bonus Tip — Bible Study Time
One more thing I’ve started doing on a more consistent basis is bible study. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you cannot pour from an empty cup. You must fill your own cup in order to pour into someone else’s. If most of those “someone else’s” are your children, the pouring can take more from your own cup than you realize. Take care of you, so you can take care of them.
Want more tips for managing gestational diabetes?