Friday, April 4, 2014

What does gestational diabetes mean for me?

So, I have decided to be open about my diagnosis of gestational diabetes this second pregnancy. I have gotten a lot of questions from people---so I'd like to address them.

First off, let's start with a definition of what this disease actually is:
Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes. Based on recently announced diagnostic criteria for gestational diabetes, it is estimated that gestational diabetes affects 18% of pregnancies.

We don't know what causes gestational diabetes, but we have some clues. The placenta supports the baby as it grows. Hormones from the placenta help the baby develop. But these hormones also block the action of the mother's insulin in her body. This problem is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance makes it hard for the mother's body to use insulin. She may need up to three times as much insulin.

Gestational diabetes starts when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy. Glucose builds up in the blood to high levels. This is called hyperglycemia.
- See more at:

So, what does this mean for me?

I control my gestational diabetes through diet and exercise. My body has proven it is very responsive to this first route of treatment. In some cases, there are mothers whose bodies do not respond to just diet and exercise and have to take insulin shots to help their body break down the excess glucose. I'm not familiar with this route, so I'm not the one to answer questions on that.

I test my blood sugar four times a day with a blood glucose meter. I take one in the morning when I first wake up (fasting) and then I take one 2-hours after each meal. My fasting blood sugar is expected to be below 95 mg/dL and after meals under 120 mg/dL.

Side note, for a second: If you do have to test your blood sugar, use the side of your ring finger. It has the least amount of nerve endings and you barely feel it. I actually have a small callous forming on my favorite place to test (given, it has served me well for two pregnancies!) so I've had to start testing on the opposite side of my finger!

I control my blood sugar by watching portion sizes of carbohydrates. One serving size of carbohydrates is 15 grams. An 8 oz glass of milk is 12 grams of carbohydrates, so for simplicity sake, I round that up to 1 serving of carbohydrates. Non-starchy vegetables and proteins are "free" foods.

So some examples of one serving of carbohydrates: 1 slice of 100% whole wheat bread, 1/4 cup of white rice, 3 cups of popcorn, 1 1/4 cups of whole strawberries, 3/4 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup of oatmeal, 1/2 cup of beans, 1/2 corn.

For example, in this following nutrition label you see two things circled in red, serving size and carbohydrates:

 So, by doing the math, 1 cup of this "Toasted Whole Grain Cereal" would yield 1.6 servings of carbohydrates. For simplicity sake, I would just round that up to 2 servings. Meaning if I added a serving of milk to this bowl of cereal I would be over my carb limit for breakfast... Which leads perfectly into the next point....

I have different numbers of servings of carbohydrates allowed at each meal. My disclaimer on this, it doesn't sound like they have one right or wrong answer for all this. I was told one thing with my first pregnancy and something different with my second. I'm going to stick with my first method because I know it works for my body. So, what I follow is listed below, what I'm recommended this second pregnancy is in parenthesis:

Breakfast: 2 servings (1 serving)
Morning Snack: 1 serving (1 serving)
Lunch: 3 servings (4 servings)
Afternoon Snack: 1 serving (1-2 servings)
Dinner: 3 servings (4 servings)
Bedtime Snack: 1 serving (1-2 servings)

Around our house, we focus on eating a whole foods diet. This has made this adjustment very easy for me because processed foods are what spike my blood sugar the most and give me the highest readings. I know that I have to avoid pastas, breads, pizza [because it's a food group of its own... I love pizza], and refined sugars. Whole starches (like beans or potatoes), fruit, and whole grains don't effect my body the way the processed versions do. I still have to watch portion sizes, but I can be a little bit more flexible! ;-)

Which then leads to the next part of the change, exercise. I have a FitBit Flex hubby got me for my birthday last year---which is AWESOME! It tracks not only my activity, but my sleep patterns. Both of which have a direct effect on my blood sugar. On nights I don't sleep well, my blood sugar is definitely more sensitive and typically higher than normal. On days I exercise a lot, I can get away with eating a few more carbs at meals and my reading are great. I also notice I have a harder time keeping my blood sugar within range when I'm sick. I do yoga at home in my living room using (check out the website, the community, videos, and blogs are amazing!!) and while that helps with my stress levels, which also effects my blood sugar, what helps the most is cardio, so I do a lot of walking. This is much easier now that the weather is starting to warm up. When it's not nice out, I usually park my car a little further out in the parking lot, walk a few extra laps around the grocery store, or make it a point to go back and forth around the store (sometimes not on purpose...)

So really, all in all, other than the unpleasant prick from the lancet four times a day, this diagnosis makes me take better care of myself. It has to be a priority to make sure I eat every two hours and exercise. You would actually be surprised how much food I have to eat on a daily basis! Sometimes, I find myself reaching for a piece of chocolate for my last carb because I just can't eat anymore. I also find that at dinner, I can treat myself to a scoop of vanilla ice cream because I have made good choices (hello, lettuce wraps or, my favorite, grilled salmon and veggies!)

See, just because I have gestational diabetes doesn't mean I can't still have treats! :-)

Disclaimer: I am, obviously, no expert on gestational diabetes. These statements are not meant to diagnose or treat the disease in anyway. These are merely my opinions and experiences with having gestational diabetes.


  1. good to know someone out there has put their experience on blog. i had gd as well during first pregnancy, and really need this kind of information before i'm planning the second one! thanks a lot :-)

    1. Glad I have been able to help you out! Make sure you consult a healthcare provider knowledgeable in the topic as well, I am in no way a medical professional. I am just merely sharing my experience with GDM. Good luck!!