Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dealing With Gestational Diabetes

For the second time, I have been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes.  This time has been especially frustrating because I failed my glucose test by 3 points for one reading and they have changed the criteria since I had it 6 years ago.  I had also been severely limiting my sugar intake and hoped I would dodge the bullet this time.  It's frustrating and expensive, but this time I have managed to control it with diet.

With my first daughter, typically only my fasting levels were higher than they should be.  They wanted it to be 95 or lower.  Now they want 89 or lower.  What I wasn't told last time was that exercising before bed could help.  I was just barely at 95 and they decided I needed a low dose of medication after a few weeks.  I also learned that if I were Canadian, I wouldn't be considered diabetic.  Also, if I weren't pregnant, I wouldn't be considered diabetic.  It's all about statistics and which glucose levels produce the best outcome as far as large babies go.  I assured my family that I'm not diabetic in the sense that I could go into a coma. 

This time I opted to see a group of midwives, which has been a huge source of stress because I was told if I have to be medicated at all, I have to switch to a doctor.  I really didn't want to switch this late in the game.  That wouldn't give me time to get to know any doctors.  My old doctor doesn't deliver babies anymore because the birth center closed.  I really loved her.  Unfortunately, stress can raise your blood sugar. 

I wanted to share what I've been doing to keep my fasting levels at a good level, but it's desperate.  It depends on how desperate you are and your body, of course.  It's interesting how one diabetic might react to one food and another won't.  For example, I can get away with having a couple of corn tortillas, but not flour tortillas.  I was given sample diets I could eat with my last pregnancy, but I can't handle french fries period.  I can eat a baked potato. 

Lots of water helps control blood sugar.  I drink two huge glasses before I go to bed, I bring another huge glass to bed with me, and I might sip it in the middle of the night.  Half an hour before I test in the morning, I drink the rest.  Of course, this results in very little sleep, but that's how desperate I am.  Lately my fasting blood sugar is in the 70's, which is great.  I'm determined to stay with the midwives because I want someone who is very supportive of me going without an epidural and will stay with me the whole time.  I don't like the stress of waiting for the doctor to come in and check me again once things are getting intense.

I also eat one bite of cottage cheese and have maybe 5 almonds at 10pm and then I test at 6am.  I try to make it exactly 8 hours later.  I also found that late dinners kind of sabotaged me.  I need to be done eating dinner by 6pm in order to have good levels in the morning.  It could be because I end up with heartburn if I eat too late and not feeling well can impact your glucose.  So can lack of sleep, which is what happened to me the night before my test. 

I was really nervous for my first dietitian appointment after my first week of monitoring because it went higher than it should a couple times, but she was awesome and explained that even non-diabetics have spikes.  My spikes had reasons like a sick child waking me up in the middle of the night. feeling sick myself, a friend dying, etc.  There was no need to medicate me so far.

A friend of mine is a diabetic and was shocked to hear how often I had to test - 5 times a day.  She said, "Your blood sugar must be really bad!"  No, pregnant women just get to monitor it extra closely - first thing in the morning, after each meal, and right before bed.  I was doing so well, I was told I could test 3 times a day.  I don't enjoy poking my finger, but the most frustrating part for me has been writing down everything I eat and constantly keeping track of when I ate and when I need to eat again.  I also worry so much about the carbs, I'm often still hungry when I stop eating and sometimes I don't have that many foods around that I can supposedly eat in unlimited amounts. 

Here are some other things that have helped me cope with this:

1.  Writing down some of my favorite low carb foods that are like a treat to me like caprese salad, summer sausage with cheese (plus a little bit of apple too), and my homemade salad dressing that has no carbs, which is delicious on many salads.  Make your food a little more special than usual.  More garnishes.  Splurge on some fancy cheeses!  Make yourself an omelet instead of scrambled eggs.  Be wild.  Use some pepperjack cheese or something. 
2.  Carrying nuts with me everywhere I go.  Sometimes my days get more hectic than expected and it's good to have that with me.  I prefer raw almonds with no salt.
3.  I enjoy produce that is in season.  It's much easier to deal with this before the holidays, that's for sure!  I've enjoyed lots of fresh berries this season, which I always have with some kind of protein
4.  I always have those thin buns around for sandwiches, hamburgers, etc.  Sometimes I'll put two hamburger patties on one bun.  For breakfast I really like the Tyson reduced fat sausage patties from Costco.  Its a large amount and you just zap it in the microwave.  Friends recommended Greek yogurt with fruit, but I'm just not a fan of yogurt.  Sometimes it's better to make your breakfast carb fruit though, so I'll have bacon and eggs with some grapes.  I like to keep things around that last a long time in the fridge.
5.  If you have lots of contractions like me and find walking difficult, you can exercise your arms at night with one of those stretchy bands.  I've been doing about 40 wall push-ups before I go to bed.
6.  I've also noticed my levels are lower in the morning when someone in my family gives me a foot rub at night.  It helps me feel less stressed and I fall asleep easier.  It has been an extremely stressful time for me because we just moved and then the kids started their new school a month later.  We moved far enough to have to change doctors, dentist, etc. too. 
7.  It's recommended that you just drink water and a little bit of milk.  You can drink diet soda, which I personally can't stand.  Lucky for me, I gave up soda four years ago, so it hasn't been that big of an issue for me.  I might alternate adding lemon or lime to my water.  Also, get a water filter so it tastes as good as possible.  It's hard to force yourself to drink large amounts when it tastes like chlorine.
8.  I had a dietitian tell me I could eat some ice cream and nuts for a snack, so I wasn't completely deprived.  It just needed to be full fat because they tend to add more sugar to "light" ice cream.
9.  I remind myself a lot how unpleasant it would be to deliver a giant baby, so giving up certain treats for a few months isn't the end of the world.  The treats aren't going anywhere.  There will still be plenty of them when I'm done being pregnant.  It is important to be committed to having a much better diet though because you are more likely to develop actual diabetes within 5 years of having your baby.  Also, eating too much sugar makes your baby's pancreas have to work too hard and often they are born with low blood sugar.  I have a friend who is grateful for her Gestational Diabetes because it made her lose her sweet tooth.
10.  Have some kind of timer or app to remind you when it's time to test.  Watching the clock constantly can drive a person nuts! 

Have you ever been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes?  What helped you cope with it? 

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