I remember hearing from friends how awful the diabetes test was. You would have to drink this disgusting sugary drink and then have your blood taken to see if you had developed gestational diabetes during your pregnancy. I didn’t know much about gestational diabetes, and honestly didn’t think much of it because I didn’t have any of the predispositions. I am extremely active and a normal weight, there is no diabetes in my family, I was under 35 and this was my first child. I thought I would go into the test and be told everything was normal. I was wrong. Soon after my first test I got the call from my doctor saying the first test was inconclusive and I would have to go back for a longer and more intense test.
Then I got the phone call I really didn’t want to hear, I tested positive for gestational diabetes. I was in a store and I just broke down in tears. Fear came over me, what did this mean for the pregnancy? What did this mean for the baby?
My doctor told me the next steps would be meeting with a dietitian to come up with a game plan. I would also have to start monitoring my blood sugar levels.
On the call, there were several other women who were also in the same boat as me. The dietician went over how we wold monitor our sugar levels and gave us some tips on how to eat properly, as well as some GD friendly snacks we could try.
The next week was brutal. I had to test me levels six times a day, poking my finger before and after every meal. Writing down everything that I ate, and making sure I was going on at least a 15 minute walk after every meal. Despite my best efforts, sometimes my sugars would spike and I would feel extremely discouraged. I felt pity, guilt, and overall sadness that what should be one of the happiest times in my life was becoming a time of constant monitoring, worrying, and fear.
As the week went on though I was able to start to make sense of what worked for my body and what didn’t. I was surprised at how small changes made a huge difference: substituting white bread for whole wheat and tropical fruits for local berries. I was luckily able to control my sugar levels through diet.
On top of eating healthier – protein and veggies at every meal with some complex carbs – I was also forcing myself to move daily. On days that I was super tired it would be something as easy as a walk after my meals. But as I started to eat healthier (and I even lost some weight) I had more energy. I continued doing spin and pregnancy safe HITT classes – and to be honest the aches and pains I thought I would have during my pregnancy never came, nor did the third trimester fatigue.
On top of feeling healthy and energized during my pregnancy I also felt like my birth and recovery was a lot easier thanks to all the exercise I was doing ahead of time. When it came to pushing during labour I felt strong and in control. Post birth my body felt really good. I wasn’t in pain and was able to get back to walking and exercise fairly quickly. I was also back to my pre-pregnancy weight pretty quickly because of how active I was ahead of time.
Yes, being diagnosed with gestational diabetes was scary and yes it was hard to cut out sweets when I was dealing with endless pregnancy cravings, and yes it was hard to keep moving when I couldn’t even put socks on due to my giant belly, but overall I actually think there were some positive takeaways. So mommas if you get diagnosed with GD, keep your head high, you got this! And here are some tips that I found really helped me navigate GD.
Ways to cope with gestational diabetes
1. Find alternatives for your favourite food items
I love toast, so it was easy to substitute white bread for whole wheat. Same goes for pasta. I was also enjoying eating yogurt, granola and bananas. So I started buying greek yogurt instead of vanilla and would add berries instead of bananas. Even switching milk for dark chocolate can make a big difference. Oh and I satisfied my ice cream cravings with halo ice cream (a low sugar option but still lots of different and delicious flavours to chose from.)
2. Find some exciting low sugar recipes
Sure it took a little more effort to come up with dinner ideas, but trust me there are some delicious options out there. I am a big fan of the cooking blog pinchofyum and the great thing is they have a whole section dedicated to low sugar meals and snacks. It made dinner time fun.
3. Stay active while also listening to your body
I am a very active person, but when you have been growing a human for 9 months there are days where you don’t even want to get out of bed. So I would try and find activities that fit my energy level for that day, but I would always make time for me to move. 9 months pregnant I would be doing anything from an intense spin class to just a 15 minute walk around the block. To be honest though on the days I didn’t want to do anything, just getting out for some fresh air made me feel more energized.
4. Don’t forget the snacks
Like I said I am quite active and so there were days that I would go out for hour long hikes and my sugar levels would actually drop too low and so it was really important for me to find some easy GD friendly snacks that I could bring on hikes. Nuts was a great option and hard boiled eggs was another go to.
5. Eat a well balanced meal
When you have gestational diabetes is it is important to still eat carbs, but just make sure they are complex carbs. During your pregnancy it is also important to eat lots of protein (with GD lean protein should be your go to) and iron levels can suffer so you want to make sure you also have some greens.
6. Drink lots of water
I was so surprised one day when I had a high sugar level before a meal and so I went for a walk first and drank some water. The walk was only 10 minutes but the combination of walking and water made my levels go way down. Water helps dilute sugar and bring down your levels. I would mix it up by adding lemon or a glass of sparkling water, but just avoid adding anything too sugary for taste.
7. Treat yourself every once in a while
This is supposed to be the most exciting time in your life – but pregnancy is also hard and you are working very hard to make this little human, so if you are craving a cupcake every once in a while go for it. Safe splurges kept me sane during my pregnancy (like a little piece of cake at my baby shower).
8. Remember you are not alone
Meghan Trainor, Selma Hayek, and even Angelina Jolie are all human and all had gestational diabetes so try not to get too down on yourself (or feel guilty like I sure did). I found that reaching out to other mommas who were diagnosed with GD made me feel a bit better and sharing tips and tricks with them was always helpful. It was also great to share a glass of wine and a sugary treat once our babies arrived.
Good luck mommas you got this!