When I was 28 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. To say that I was devastated is an understatement - I cried big, fat ugly tears. I was convinced that I had harmed my baby, probably through my love affair with ice cream and the odd red velvet cupcake. I lay on the couch feeling sorry for myself all day, bawling on and off and fearing the unknown.
The next day I put on my big girl pants and started researching the condition.
Statistics show that 5-10% of women will develop gestational diabetes in pregnancy. It has nothing to do with the mother's diet in pregnancy. It is caused by the placenta producing hormones that create a build up of sugar in your blood. Normally, your pancreas should produce enough insulin to control the sugar. If your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, your blood sugar levels will rise, resulting in gestational diabetes. Knowing I couldn't have done anything to prevent my diagnosis made me feel better.
Gestational diabetes can make a pregnancy riskier, and as a result, I was treated as a high-risk pregnancy for my third trimester. The risks include baby being heavier than normal, developing preeclampsia and a higher likelihood of having a -section. I attended a class at my hospital where I was educated on how to control my diet, and how to use a blood sugar monitor. Gestational Diabetes can be treated through diet & exercise, sometimes with the addition of insulin. I was very lucky to be on the lower end of the spectrum and managed my blood sugar level with diet and exercise alone.
During my research, I read horror stories about babies being born massive and dislocating shoulders during labour. This is very rare and mostly in cases where the mothers are not diagnosed. Nevertheless, I was very strict on myself and followed my diet to a tee. I ate the same bland meals day in and day out for 10 weeks, determined to keep my blood sugar level. I walked the dog after dinner and tried to stay active. Pricking myself with a needle four times a day was miserable, but on the plus side my controlled diet kept my weight gain down.
My son entered the world at 38 weeks, weighing a perfect 7lbs 9oz. The nurses monitored us both very closely for the first 48 hours, testing our blood after every meal. In 90% of cases, gestational diabetes disappears once you've given birth. We both passed with flying colours. I was so proud of myself for getting us through the third trimester safely, and without either of us having any side effects of the condition.
Looking back, I cringe when I think of how I over-reacted to my diagnosis, but I also think that doctors should educate expectant mums on what causes gestational diabetes. I'm sure I'm not the only woman who assumed it was my diet, or lack of fitness. To anyone battling with the condition, my advice is to be kind to yourself, learn what foods work for you, and remember it'll all be worth it when you hold your baby in your arms.
Oh, and I promise, you will scoff chocolate and ice-cream guilt-free again!