Look at all the food…I can’t eat…
Asides from my severe pelvic girdle pain, my pregnancy was going quite smoothly. At my first antenatal appointment (booking in appointment) I was considered a very low risk pregnancy and not at an increased risk of gestational diabetes (something I hadn’t heard of before). So that was that, or so I thought…
28 Weeks Pregnant…
When I was 28 weeks pregnant I had to have the ‘oral glucose tolerance’ test. This is routine in my area apparently, and offered to all pregnant women between 24-28 weeks. I couldn’t help think to myself this is such a pain, I don’t have diabetes and now I have to fast to take a test, how inconvenient when your pregnant. But you can’t exactly say no…mum guilt! At 9pm the evening before I had to stop eating and drinking, and then 2 hours before my midwife appointment and blood test at 9am, I had to drink the glucose drink. Fine. The drink was not very nice, and shortly after taking it I felt incredibly sick and shaky, but didn’t think anything more of it.
A couple of days later my midwife phoned me to tell me my blood results. “Unfortunately, you’ve got low iron which can be easily sorted. I have prescribed you some iron pills. However, we have also discovered you have gestational diabetes” she said… excuse me? What?
“You have gestational diabetes”…
The midwife was lovely on the phone, she could tell I was quite shocked and knew nothing about diabetes, let alone gestational diabetes. She explained briefly what it was, what this would mean and how my diet would have to change…immediately. She also said she was referring me to the diabetic clinic at the hospital and I should see them within the week. It was a lot to take in. My initial thoughts were, what have I done wrong? I didn’t understand, the answer is truly nothing though as I found out shortly.
On the Wednesday I had my group session at the diabetic clinic at my local hospital. They explained that gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy, caused by the placenta and hormones and that it usually disappears straight after giving birth. It happens when your body is unable to produce enough insulin. They also explained that if the condition isn’t managed, it could cause problems for both myself and baby. It was very overwhelming, but I was pretty sure I was borderline, so with a bit of a diet change I would be fine.
They told me I would have to test my blood sugar levels 4 times a day! I was so scared, I have to be honest… I have a bit of needle phobia and I wasn’t able to prick my finger myself the first time. The nurse had to do it for me! I have to test my levels when I wake up (this is my fasting level) and an hour after eating each meal.
We then saw the dietitian, who explained how our diet needed to change. I needed to cut out all the obvious stuff like sweets, chocolate etc as I had assumed. But, I was very surprised as to the extent the diet change would be. I needed to make sure I was eating low carb (slow release carbs are best) and low amounts of fruit due to the natural sugars in them. The foods I should be focusing on are fats, proteins and vegetables. We were all sent away to give the diet changes a go, in the hopes that we could stay diet controlled.
Much harder than I thought…
The first week was honestly a nightmare. My levels were so much higher than I had imagined, including my fasting levels, way over what they should be and I was sticking to my diet religiously. Everything I ate made my levels rocket. I literally couldn’t eat any amount of carbs without my levels shooting up. I felt terrible. I was so hungry and anxious I was harming the baby. I felt like I should be skipping meals to try and keep my levels down, which is obviously not what you should be doing. I felt really down and alone as I had never heard of this condition and no one I knew had, had it.
I sent my levels off to the diabetic team and they were concerned as well and invited me in. They agreed I literally couldn’t be eating any better. The only thing they could suggest was pairing my carbs a bit better. So if I ate a brown thing, to have cheese and chicken with it. Other than that, I needed to start medication to help process the sugars in my blood. I was prescribed Metformin. I started taking one tablet with my evening meal, and then we reassessed. Unfortunately, I am now up to taking two 500mg tablets with my breakfast and two with my evening meal, because my fasting levels were just not coming down.
Starting Metformin wasn’t very nice, I was sick the first night and had terrible tummy cramps for days. But, the medication and strict diet has really made a difference. My levels are now finally under control and I feel a lot less anxious.
I’m currently 33 + 5 weeks pregnant and i’m not going to lie i’m finding it really difficult. I have lost a lot of interest in food and my appetite has decreased massively. Any food I do actually fancy, I can’t eat. It doesn’t help that i’m a very fussy eater and I don’t eat many meats. Just chicken and turkey really. It’s hard, because you feel like it’s the one time in your life (being pregnant) that you shouldn’t have to worry about having the odd treat and indulging in your cravings, but I really have to be incredibly strict. I feel quite tired and down sometimes, but then I remember why I am doing it and I start thinking about my list of treats i’m going to have once my baby is here safely!
I had a growth scan and my little man is not so little! He’s quite big for his gestation, about 2-3 weeks ahead, but they aren’t too concerned at the moment. Apparently, this is very common with babies where mum has GD, and now my levels are under control he should slow down. I have another growth scan to check on him in a couple of weeks, so at least I get to see him again! They have told me I will be induced due to being on medication to control my diabetes at 39 weeks, if things stay the way they are. If we have any complications due to the diabetes, this will be brought forward. But at the moment, as hard as i’m finding it, I’m doing well and my levels are good. My fingers are falling off though from all the pricking!!
Gestational Diabetes UK Mums…
A lovely mum on instagram reached out to me when I was first diagnosed, I really appreciated this, as I said, I had no idea about anything and felt completely alone. She suggested joining the facebook group: Gestation Diabetes UK Mums. It’s a closed group with so much information and support for the condition, from other mums in the same situation and GDUK advisers. I would defiantly recommend joining this supportive community. There always there, whatever the time there is someone to speak to.
They also have an amazing website which goes through the condition and also provided recipes, meal plan ideas, birth and complication support etc. This really helped me to develop my understanding of the condition. https://www.gestationaldiabetes.co.uk/
No it’s not my fault…
One final thought and one that I struggled to get my head around to start with. It isn’t your fault you have gestational diabetes, it affects around 5% of all UK pregnancies. Yes, some women are at a higher risk of developing it due to a higher BMI etc. (please see the list on GDUK of risk factors) however others just develop it. This is one of the reasons my diabetes wasn’t picked up until later in the pregnancy, I didn’t fit the risk factors.
I’m fed up with people assuming I have the condition because “I must eat badly”. Well I don’t. It is so important to raise awareness of this condition so that all pregnant women are tested for gestational diabetes, and don’t slip through the net. Gestational diabetes doesn’t just mean you will have a bigger baby, there can be many more serious complications if it isn’t managed properly.
It’s been a really hard few weeks, and i’m trying my best not to let it take away from the end of my pregnancy. I have been told that in future pregnancy’s I will most likely have it, but I wont have to wait so long to be treated. Having gestational diabetes also means I am at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. This is why it’s important that every year, post baby, I am tested to check.
At the moment my levels are looking good, me and baby are fine and i’m hoping this stays this way so I don’t have to start insulin. But if I do, I do. Its OK! and not my fault.
Little Man your defiantly worth it, but GD… YOU can do one!
I would love to hear about your GD journeys and any advice you have.
I will keep you updated on mine.
Please check out my Instagram: mummymitchell18