You just found out that you have gestational diabetes and I am guessing that you are not all that happy about it. Life is busy enough without this on your plate (pardon the pun). You probably have not heard the news directly from your doctor but maybe a random person who doesn’t know who you are or what this means to you. Don’t give up, there is hope. You are invited to be part of a clinic based setting to learn more. You may be scared, you may think “what if I have to go on insulin?” Following a diet is not something you may have planned during your pregnancy. It doesn’t seem fair, this is the only time in life where maybe you can get away with eating extra and not think too much about it. Or maybe you are very careful about your diet and think “why did I get this despite me having a good diet?”
Well, it is the case with so many transitions in life stages, hormones are to blame. They can really wreak havoc in the body but even though they get a little out of control sometimes, they have their purpose. One effect of hormones of gestational diabetes is that it can make your body very stingy with insulin. This is a hormone that senses blood sugar after you eat (carbohydrates break down into blood sugar). A meal that you would have no problem making enough insulin for before pregnancy may in turn become a problem due to the insulin being in shorter supply.
Your body especially likes to have less insulin overnight so waking up with higher blood sugars tends to be the result. Sometimes this happens even with the perfect night snack.
Daily Diet Challenges
Life is filled with temptation, constant celebrations; sometimes the perfect snack is not available at the time. Our days can be filled with landmines of food and drinks that don’t necessarily suit a body being stingy with insulin. Sugar is lurking around every corner. Balancing a meals sometimes becomes harder than being on a balancing beam!
Minding Your Plate
Take heart though, you just have to begin with where you are today and do your best with what is in front of you. The “healthy plate” is a good visual to get into your head. If you think you have a lot of work to do on your diet, you may get away with a few tweaks here and there which can make all the difference. The “free for all” food group are veggies. Even a non-vegetable lover can find ways to have them. Think the “Seven S’s” –Soups, Stews, Stir-fry, Sandwich, Skillets, Sauces, and Smoothies. Then think protein foods which are helpful for keeping carbs balanced and blood sugars better. Choose meat, fish, tofu (learn to work with tofu), nuts, seeds, legumes, cheese. Remember that protein is needed to build that little baby; as an added bonus it is needed to make insulin so protein up.
Healthy fats are your friend (nuts, seeds, avocado, oils, and fatty fish) but unfortunately cereal is not so much a friend. However cereal may sometimes be used as a night snack which may keep a good blood sugar until the next morning. Try and keep one quarter of your plate as whole grains such as … Breads, rice, pasta. These foods may bring much joy and comfort but unfortunately creates higher blood sugars so they need to be in smaller portions and balanced with other foods.
Be wary of drinks with sugar and they are everywhere; ice coffees, ice tea, pop, juice, sport drinks. Even milk in large quantities have too much sugar. Best to axe get rid of the processed sugar beverages and keep a cap on milk to two cups per day.
The Joy of Movement
Get your walk on for better blood sugars. Movement of any “enjoyable and pregnancy appropriate” kind can make a huge difference in blood sugars. Don’t think of walking as an add-on; make it part of your daily routine. A 10 minute blast of activity after a meal can make a positive change for you and your baby.
Your Effort Pays Off
Making a difference for you and your baby is what it is all about here. Your baby will be all smiles and thumbs up if they are sheltered in a nice fluid filled with nutrients and the right amount of blood sugar. They will be sporting a healthy weight when they arrive in their little birthday suits and they have a greater chance coming to the party on time too. They will have happier blood sugars when they arrive too; less chance of them needing extra tending to with medical procedures. More time for holding, feeding and cuddling your new baby. Speaking of feeding, breastfeeding will propel them and you into better health faster. Learn about breastfeeding and all its glorious benefits for you and your baby.
Your effort with managing gestational diabetes may sometimes be inconvenient; but the payoff will be huge for you in the short and long term. High blood sugars just make you feel sluggish, tired and your baby may feel the same way too. Managing your gestational diabetes is going to help your weight gain be much smoother, which will make a difference in fending off high blood pressure and other problems that can pop up later in pregnancy.
Navigating and the Reward
If you need a bit of insulin from outside, so be it. This is not a failure. Do your best with diet and lifestyle but sometimes all efforts may be for naught. Be proud of every effort that you make. This is not easy, but like so much in life that is not easy, the reward is greater. Take a deep breath and go forward with what is in front of you each day. Don’t stress about a high number here or there. Patterns and trends are what your health teams looks for. Your team is here to help you on your journey. It is a shared experience. Look for the positives in this unexpected fork (again sorry for pun) in the road. Sometimes what appears negative turns out to be a positive! Here’s to you, a healthy pregnancy, a healthy baby and lifelong health to you both and your families. Life is waiting.