How I’ve been managing my surprise diagnosis of gestational diabetes.
A few weeks ago my midwife informed me that I had gestational diabetes (GD). This was a complete shock to me, as I hadn’t had GD with my first two.
If you’re unfamiliar with GD, it occurs because the placenta produces insulin-resistant hormones that makes the body more resistant to absorbing blood sugars as it normally does. As a result, blood sugar levels rise. However, the pancreas (that produce insulin) may not be able to produce enough insulin to deal with the higher levels of blood sugar, which leads to the GD diagnosis.
Some women are diagnosed with it early in the pregnancy, many (like me) are told at around the 24-28 week mark, after the standard glucose tolerance test. While my midwife said there was nothing specific that led to the diagnosis (apparently being over 35 AND of an Asian background was a winning combination), I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty that I could have done a bit more to prevent it from happening.
Up until that point I’d been exercising fairly regularly and keeping to a healthy diet probably 70% of the time. However, I did indulge in daily flavoured mineral water drinks, as they seemed to help me feel a bit more energised and deal with those days I had nausea. Also, in the three weeks prior to the test it was the over-indulgent Christmas period, so my body was probably struggling to cope with the extra food I’d consumed over that period.
So with the GD diagnosis I was pretty much overwhelmed with the news that I’d have to control my carbohydrate and sugar intake, test my blood sugar level 3-4 times a day with a prick test and blood sugar monitor, exercise regularly (more so than what I was doing), consult with a dietitian about what I could and shouldn’t eat, and see an endocrinologist to determine whether I’d need insulin medication and/or insulin injections, or just control my blood sugar with diet. This was on top of learning what GD may lead to if left unchecked, which included having a large baby (leading to greater need for interventions such as c-section or forceps), and a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life.
You can imagine how flummoxed I was after that appointment, but I was told that generally once baby was born the GD would disappear (but I would need to be mindful of that higher risk of type 2 diabetes), and that I didn’t do anything wrong to cause it. However, it did mean that I needed to make changes to my diet and lifestyle to manage it.
This was where my bullet journal came in handy, as I was already planning my family’s dinners, but I also noted what I could eat for my other meals, according to how many carbohydrate serves or “exchanges” I was allowed to eat. (Basically a carbohydrate exchange is equivalent to 15g of carbohydrate, which includes breads, pasta, dairy, rice, starchy veggies such as potato and corn).
For the family meals, I just needed to change it to make them more low-carb. Yes, my family is on the carbohydrate-controlled journey with me, but I just make small tweaks in the meals so that they can still have their regular amount of carbs while I eat a low-carb version.
For example, one night we had burgers, and instead of having a bun I had two portobello mushrooms sandwiching my burger.
I’ve also looked into keto friendly meals which are also low carb. This one was dinner the other night, spinach and cream cheese stuffed chicken with plenty of salad.
In terms of exercise, I’ve also tried to fit in about 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise about 5 times a week. This replaces my daily yoga practice which I had noted for my #18for2018 goals. I usually do a third trimester workout from YouTube, and Mr 2 joins in now and again.
So far my blood sugar levels have been within the acceptable range, with a couple of days where they spiked. I’ve noted what meals I had to cause those spikes (a falafel roll?! Who knew?) so I know to avoid those.
My family generally enjoy the meals, but they haven’t noticed a huge change as they’re still eating things like pasta and potato mash (whereas I’ll have zucchini noodles or cauliflower mash). They love the low-carb shepherd’s pie and bacon and cheeseburger casserole so these will come up a few times in my weekly meal plans.
What I’ve noticed after these changes is how our food grocery bill has really gone up. I’m buying a lot more meat, vegetables and less carby (ie cheap) stuff to bulk up my meals, so there’s an extra expense there. However, we’re definitely not eating out as much or getting home delivery as I can’t control what’s in these meals, so I guess we’re saving in that respect. I’m also not buying as many takeaway drinks like my matcha lattes as these tend to have sugar in them, and it’s more than the 250mL of milk I’m allowed to drink in one sitting.
It all sounds so restrictive doesn’t it? I have to admit, being on this diet for a few weeks now I’m really over not being able to eat what I want. I’ve been dying to have an icecream or milkshake on these muggy summery days. However, I also don’t like the idea of taking medication and/or insulin injections, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a long period of time until I can have said icecream or milkshake. Things could be a lot worse and if I can avoid complications by not being able to eat these things (ie actually being healthy!) then I’ll do it. I’m already dreaming of that post-partum meal of sushi, followed by chocolate and a crazy milkshake!
Let me know if you have any tips on low-carb meals, your own experiences with GD, or if you’d like me to post more about what I’m eating and how I’m managing my GD up until birth!
Where I get my low-carb recipes