My first pregnancy didn’t go quite the way I planned. I came from a line of women who couldn’t say enough good things about their pregnancies. My mother and grandmother always told me that they felt their best when they were pregnant. Naturally, I thought my pregnancy would be the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
For the first six months I experienced what has erroneously been called “morning sickness”. The error in this label lies in the word “morning” as this sickness can last all day or hit you unexpectedly at any time of the day. It was not at all attractive.
Towards the end of my third trimester, I was finally able to keep food down. I felt stronger and happier. It was nice to be able to indulge in some of the yummy treats many women crave during pregnancy. I still lacked energy, but I reasoned this was just a result of my getting bigger. I figured my last trimester would be a breeze.
Then the results of my routine glucose screening tests came back. My numbers were higher than normal. I returned to the lab for a glucose tolerance test which confirmed glucose intolerance. My numbers were just shy of the diabetes mark. At first I felt relieved, but my OB/GYN said since I was borderline, I had to treat it as gestational diabetes. The only difference was I didn’t have to prick my finger four times a day as long as I was able to manage my weight gain through proper diet and exercise. Great.
According to the American Diabetes Association, (ADA) gestational diabetes affects 4% of all pregnant women. It is one of the most common health problems in pregnancy. It begins when our bodies are not able to produce and use all the insulin we need during pregnancy. When gestational diabetes is left untreated, our pancreas works overtime to produce the insulin needed to support us and the development of our growing babies. While insulin does not pass into the placenta, glucose does. The increased amount of glucose puts stress on the baby’s pancreas to create more insulin to get rid of the extra blood glucose. As a result the baby gets more energy than it needs and this extra energy is stored as fat. Babies with excess insulin at birth face a number of health risks including breathing problems, and macrosomia.
I had my nutritionist explain this to me about three or four times. If only I had Dr. Swaim’s explanation in the podcast referenced below, I may have grasped it quicker. The bottom line was I needed to stick to a specific diet or my health and the health of my baby would be at risk.
The diet itself wasn’t bad. It was basically portion control and balancing the right amount of carbohydrates throughout the day. But the last thing a pregnant woman wants to hear is the word “diet”. At first I focused on all the things I couldn’t eat. What was I going to do with that wonderful bag of peanut butter cups in the pantry? How would I get by without potato chips? Is life worth living without cookies n cream? I realized quickly that if I was going to succeed, I had to turn all my negatives into positives.
At first glance this may not look like much of a positive. Who wants broccoli when you’re salivating for Doritos? I’m very competitive though. So I made my mind over and convinced myself that this was a game – and I had to win it. Every day I made it my aim to eat all five of my servings of fruits and vegetables. To my surprise this made it easier for me to make better food choices.
This was my opportunity to feel like I was eating more rather than eating less. Eating more often during the day kept me feeling full and I didn’t overindulge at dinnertime – nighttime eating has always been my downfall. In that last month, these regular snacks really helped to chase away the crankies.
I had to let go of my grudge against healthy foods. A handful of almonds paired with a cup of fruit or applesauce was my snack of choice. And it really was yummy – no, not yummy as chocolate or ice cream is yummy, but it did the job most of the time. I also found that indulging in a sugar-free Jell-o pudding snack cup or a “Baby Needs Chocolate” Belly Bar helped out when the chocolate cravings were just too much.
My late pregnancy was in the winter, so we took advantage of our local mall and just walked circles around it. It sounds monotonous, but it was a great opportunity to talk about the baby, what we looked forward to, what we weren’t looking forward to, our hopes, and our fears. It really helped us to stay connected as a couple and fortified us for the change we had ahead.
Sounds cheesy, yes, but it really did help. I felt I had gotten a head start on Mommyhood which is full of sacrifices and making changes in my lifestyle for the sake of baby. Of course, pregnancy alone does this for any Mommy to be, but this mindset kept me motivated on the rougher days.
By following the diet and including regular exercise in my weekly activities, I found myself having more energy – in a relative sense of course, it is true that pregnancy takes a lot out of us. At 41 weeks I gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl. In the end, whatever I endured during my pregnancy was well worth it. My gestational diabetes went away immediately, but I found the strategies of the diet to be a sensible way of eating that I try to continue to this day.
For more information about gestational diabetes, its causes, symptoms and treatment visit: