My experience with gestational diabetes and how I managed it without medicines?

Pregnancy is a cascade of beautiful feelings - seeing your growing munchkin during ultrasounds, feeling their hiccups or kicks and the eagerness to hold the little bundle of joy.

However, with the amazing changes your body undergoes, complications can often arise. They came to me in the form of gestational diabetes. For someone whose only visits to the doctors had been for minor cuts/burns, “discovering” diabetes during pregnancy was quite shocking and scary. More than anything, the thought of the diabetes impacting my baby’s health, if not controlled, was very upsetting.

Note: Gestational Diabetes (GD) is a condition during pregnancy when blood sugar level becomes high as the plethora of hormones produced interfere with the body’s natural ability to produce and/or utilize natural insulin.

My 2hr - 75gm glucose tolerance test during the second trimester read as follows:

  • Glucose, Fasting: 85mg/dL (normal)
  • Glucose 1 Hr: 184mg/dL (high)
  • Glucose 2 Hr: 124mg/dL (normal)

As you can see above, my 1 Hr reading was 4 points over normal (<180mg/dL was the normal range for my hospital), while my fasting and 2 Hr results were normal! Given two out of the three results were good, I actually tried pleading with my doctor to not consider me diabetic (citing some kind of test error!). The doctor, I can thank my stars now (you will see later why), did not budge though explaining that there have been cases of birth complications with just a single point abnormality. I was so sad :(

I was immediately scheduled for an appointment with a dietitian. My dietitian educated me about the role of different foods (proteins, carbs, fat) in sugar management and provided me with carb controlled food charts. The test of how well I was managing my diet was simple - I had to measure my sugar level four times a day using the finger prick method - fasting and after each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner). A nurse would call me up once a week and discuss diet changes or refer to the doctor based on a review of my blood test readings. I was asked to include vigorous walking (enough to cause some shortness of breath or some panting) post every meal to manage the glucose spike that emerged due to meal intake.

Initially, I was able to control my sugar levels through diet management and exercise. As I entered 34-35th week, despite my best efforts, my early morning fasting readings (you would wonder why that one of all would spike) began to shoot over the range. As soon as I had five “red” readings in a week, I was scheduled to meet with a doctor (diabetes specialist).

The doctor, upon reviewing my results, concluded that I would have to start sugar controlling medication immediately. I was very disappointed. I wanted my pregnancy to be as natural as possible and I was worked so hard to keep it that way but I was still losing the battle.

While I purchased the prescribed medicine, I decided to give myself a couple more days before actually consuming the medicine. All this time, I was working in a full time job alongside managing GD. I decided to take disability leave immediately - thanks to the job security and income replacement law in California.

Taking this break turned out to be just the right thing - I was able to focus on my diet single-mindedly. My stress levels, not going into the job, went down considerably and I think this was a big reason for how things started to turn around.

I grew extra maniacal about the carbs in my diet and about the 45 min brisk walks after each meal. We tried different things – changing bedtime, wake-up time, bedtime snacks, dinner time, time between dinner and bedtime snacks etc etc..

After so many failure attempts (it was really depressing but I stayed calm and kept trying), Fortunately I was able to find a regime that worked for me.

  • I used to have my dinner around 7:00-7:30pm and then go for a walk for ~45 mins.
  • Go to bed around 10:00pm and relax.
  • Eat bedtime snack around 11:00pm (3-4 hrs after dinner)
  • Take my fasting sugar reading between 7:00-8:00am in the morning (exactly 8-9hrs after bedtime snack)

In addition to this schedule, what i ate for my bedtime snack also played a significant role on my fasting sugar reading. I tried different combinations of carbs and protein, but what worked for me was a half slice of bread with peanut butter :)

Stay tuned for more details on my diet plan and experience…

Happy Reading!

Here are some good reads on gestational diabetes:

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