“But I’m a nutrition coach!” I thought to myself. Surely, there must be a mistake. They ran the wrong blood sample, or took the sample wrong. I stared at the lab technician with a mixture of fear and anger as she told me I had gestational diabetes and my blood glucose level was 208.
With tears welling up in my eyes, I sat down in the waiting room. I overheard 2 ladies who had bonded while doing their 3 hour test state that if both of them passed they’d celebrate by going to get all you can eat pancakes at IHOP.
As I texted my mom and husband, they reassured me everything would be fine. I blotted my eyes and thought – not a problem, I’ll do the 3 hour test, pass (of course) and this will all be in the past. If the all you can eat pancake crew can do this, then I definitely can.
“What do you mean, I can’t do the 3 hour test?” I (mostly) calmly asked my doctor. It turns out, she explained, that since my blood sugar was over 190 after the 1 hour test, I was put into the Gestational Diabetes category and would not be doing anymore tests but instead be taking classes.
I cried. I was embarrassed. I was also kind of angry. I don’t eat at IHOP! Why is this happening to me. All sorts of emotions rushed through me in my 28 week pregnant state. The hormones did not help me here.
I’m happy to state that I am now 9 weeks postpartum, as I write this, and was able to manage my gestational diabetes through diet and passed my 2 hour glucose test, meaning I do not currently have type 2 diabetes. Read below for the 5 big learnings I had from this experience.
What is Gestational Diabetes
Gestational Diabetes is when a pregnant woman’s blood sugar levels become too high. Essentially, it’s diabetes during pregnancy. There are several risks due to gestational diabetes which include larger birth weight, baby with too low of blood sugar after birth, momma developing type 2 diabetes, etc.
I am not a medical doctor. This article is meant to share my experience with gestational diabetes so that you are able to incorporate some of my learnings to help you manage your gestational diabetes. I believe that it can be managed with food, however, in some cases other methods may be needed. This is something you should discuss and work through with your doctor.
Gestational Diabetes Tip 1: Invest in a Blood Glucose Meter
When I was scheduled for my classes, there was about a 2 week period between my diagnosis and the class. Since I was already at 28 weeks, and since it was “bad enough” to need classes, I didn’t want to go any longer with no data. So I went on amazon and bought a meter and strips. I was able to find them for about $30.
I was thinking that they would prescribe me a better one but the nurse I worked with said I could keep using mine. So, to me, it was worth the $30 and not using my insurance to be able to have data right away.
When the hospital called to sign me up for the classes, they did not instruct me to start checking my sugar. However, when I started the classes they asked if I knew what my sugar levels were. So, it was extremely helpful to be able to share the data that I had already collected with the meter.
This blood glucose meter became my closest friend and is a tool now that I’ll always have in my regimen. Once I was on the official regimen, I checked my blood sugar 4 times a day: right when I first woke up and 1 hour after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Finally, after I delivered my son, it was nice to have a meter on hand to sporadically check my blood sugar levels to see if they were improving. It helped put my mind at ease to have actual data. I plan to use this every so often to check my levels and make sure I’m not developing type 2 diabetes, which is a risk if you’ve had gestational diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes Tip 2: Read Labels
This may seem obvious, but is so necessary. During my gestational I needed to make sure I was always pairing protein with any carb I ate. One serving of protein was 7 grams of protein and one serving of carbs was 15 grams. I also had to make sure any carb I had had at least 3 grams of dietary fiber and less than 5 grams of added sugar.
It’s amazing how many boxed foods don’t fit this criteria. Specifically because so many have added sugar. Even foods that you would not think “needed” any sugar. Plus, once you are in the habit of reading nutritional labels, you can incorporate it into your everyday life. This is a skill that really keeps on giving.
Gestational Diabetes Tip 3: Incorporate Protein
Protein is going to be your best friend during this time. Not only will it keep you full, but it will also help to balance out carbs and keep your blood sugar low. The trick here is to incorporate as much “pure” protein as possible during this time.
What do I mean by that? Well, most people consider peanut butter a protein. However, it’s also high in fat. This isn’t a bad thing, especially if you buy a peanut butter containing only peanuts and oil and no sugar or make your own. It can negatively impact your blood sugar though.
This was a huge learning for me during this time! The fat in your diet will not raise or lower your blood sugar but will keep blood sugar where it is. So, if it’s high, the fat will keep it high. Thus, turn to lean proteins when possible. Don’t omit your peanut butter, just pair it with a protein shake rather than a banana.
For me, I ate eggs for breakfast, usually with a piece of gluten-free toast. I prefer to be gluten and dairy-free. Personally, it works better for me. If you do well with gluten-containing bread, feel free to use that, but just make sure you’re looking at tip 2!
Gestational Diabetes Tip 4: Eat
Eat. How much can I emphasize this? EAT! You are growing a baby mama, this is not the time to be on a diet. It can be overwhelming and frustrating. I personally got to a point where I felt like I had to cut out all of my favorite foods. However, it’s only temporary and the better you manage this now, the better chance you’ll have that it won’t turn into diabetes type 2. Do this for your baby and do this for yourself!
Back to the tip though, eat every 2-3 hours. Make sure you are referring to tip 3 and including protein with your snacks. I liked including protein shakes, carrots, and hummus, cottage cheese (if you can do dairy), tuna salad (try a recipe that doesn’t include the mayo or use less). Whatever you like, remember to eat. Your baby and your body will thank you.
Tip 5: Don’t Fast
The other major thing I learned during this experience is that it’s really important to not go more than 8-9 hours without eating. The reason for this is the body is a fine tuned machine. Even though yours may not be regulating insulin that great at the moment, if you go more than 9 hours between meals, specifically dinner and breakfast, your body will likely release stored glucose into the blood stream to ensure your blood glucose doesn’t get too low.
Then your body will produce insulin, but since your insulin response is slow, your fasting blood sugar will be high or your 1 hour post breakfast will be high. Ensuring I at protein right before I went to bed and then within 30 minutes of waking up was a game changer for me.
This is difficult. I like to get up and leisurely make a hot beverage and drink it slowly. However, during my gestational diabetes, I had to get up, drink a protein shake, and then I could have my relaxing morning. I loved Vega Clean chocolate protein during this time. It’s plant-based and has 25 grams of protein per serving and only 3 grams of carbs so it was over 3 servings of protein per scoop and almost negligible carbs.
So, you’ve read the 5 easy tips for managing your gestational diabetes, now what?
Hang in there, mama, you got this! The struggle is real, but it won’t last forever. Soon, you’ll have your bundle of joy and I know you’ll be happy you managed your gestational diabetes with food. And, if you needed to incorporate other methods to help manage, adding some of these tips can still help in your journey! There’s no shame in any path.
I would love to connect with you and hear your story. Get my free meal plan – the one I followed during my gestational diabetes journey!