Pregnant woman with gestational diabetes cooking in a frying pan
Great Advice Health Symptoms and Ailments

Gestational Diabetes: Tips for Coping from the Lessons I've Learned

By Kate Compton Barr

About a month ago I failed my one hour blood sugar test. I was pretty sure that this happened because I stopped for a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit on the way to the doctor’s office. (Don’t judge. I was hungry.) So, I wasn’t afraid of the three hour glucose test. It was just a thing I had to get through before I could go back to enjoying discount Halloween candy, baked goods, and all things carbohydrate.

I survived the three-hour test.

It was as dreadful as advertised. The first hour was the worst. I thought I was going to vomit, pass out, or possibly die at various points. The nurses were sympathetic – even cheerleader-esque – helping me through. I assumed I was just being (typically) overdramatic, but apparently, some pregnant ladies do *actually* vomit or pass out. No one has died, though. That feeling was special to me. Pro tip: Avoid the vomiting at all costs. If you puke, you have to start over.

I went home, confident that I had passed.


The next morning I got The Call. I have gestational diabetes.

I was required to attend a 3 hour class about what I could and couldn’t eat. It included a lot of practice reading labels. And a lot of pushing of sugar substitutes, which aren’t really my jam. I also learned that I would be counting every carb that passed my lips and checking my blood sugar four times per day. You can imagine the depths of my sorrow. I didn’t cry in front of the health educator, but I didn’t not cry when I got to my car.

I’ve been watching my diet and checking my blood sugar for a few weeks now. It’s been a rollercoaster. I fluctuate between feeling confident, bitter, sad, and resigned.

But, I’m learning some Gestational Diabetes lessons along the way:

1. Yeah. It sucks.

This bad boy is no blessing. Blessings are things like finding an awesome shirt on the 75% off rack at Target or getting in your car when you’re running late to discover that your partner already filled your empty gas tank. Gestational diabetes does not fall into this category. Rather, it’s “a thing you’d rather not have but are going to deal with because you have no other choice.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad to know what’s going on with my body so I can protect my and my baby’s health. But, I’m not gonna lie, that’s cold comfort when you’re out to dinner watching your friends enjoy amazing food that you can’t eat.

2. Gestational diabetes is nothing to be ashamed of.

I don’t have gestational diabetes because I’m fat. Or because I ate “bad” foods the first 20ish weeks of pregnancy. Or because I didn’t exercise enough. Nope. My placenta is producing a lot of growth hormones (to help baby grow). Those growth hormones make it harder for insulin to do its job getting sugar out of my blood and into my body’s cells. This happens to EVERY mom-to-be. The difference is that some pregnant ladies are able to crank out extra insulin to clear out that blood sugar, no problem. Those of us with gestational diabetes aren’t able to keep up with the sugar onslaught and need some extra help. That’s all. Some of us can manage things by eating foods that put sugar into our blood slowly (like proteins and fats). Others of us will need to take insulin. We are not failures. Our bodies just need a little assistance while those growth hormones are running high.

3. I’m now the weird eater.

We all have that friend. The one who’s paleo or south beach or gluten-free or whatever. We love her, but watching her order from a dinner menu is painful and forget having her over to your house to eat. Well. Now I’m that person. This is just my reality. Sorry everyone.

4. It’s not The Worst Thing Ever.

I cried about my diagnosis for two days. Turns out that was probably (again) an overreaction.  As pregnancy complications go, this one is on the “better this than something else” list. Most women’s blood sugar goes right back to normal after birth. The main risks to baby aren’t life threatening. Gestational diabetes can be managed with very little risk to my health or baby’s. That’s all good news. Also, bacon is now on my daily menu, so there’s that silver lining.

5. Blood sugar is not easy to control.

Everyone’s body works differently. I’ve been given guidelines that I should eat 30-45g of carbs at lunch time. But, I’ve found that my sugar level gets too high if I approach that 45 number. So, it’s 30g for me. Most days that works. Then some days, I randomly get a high reading and I could not tell you for the life of me what’s different. Blood sugar is affected by a great many things – not just what we eat – so I’m learning that I have to be patient with myself and do the best I can. The goal isn’t to be perfect.

6. Blood sugar can spike during illness.

My first week on the special diet, I had the flu. I kept getting high reading after high reading. It was so frustrating. I was eating perfectly (a rarity for me) and my numbers were all off. Turns out that getting sick can raise your blood sugar. This happens because your immune system stimulates hormones that make it harder for your body to take the sugar out of your blood efficiently. So, it’s like adding more struggle on top of the growth hormone thing. My body just couldn’t keep up. Except for some people, they get low blood sugar when they’re sick. See – blood sugar is a real you-know-what.

7. I’m trying to reframe.

I’m not one of those people who “bounced back after baby” the first time around (I hate that phrase, anyway). I know that on the other side of this pregnancy, I need to return to healthier eating habits and regular exercise to support my health in the long-term. While I had planned to spend these last few weeks of pregnancy gorging on holiday food, instead I’m trying to view this as a chance to jump start making my healthier choices. This is not necessarily what I would choose, but since it’s the path I’m on, I might as well make the best of it.

Gestational diabetes isn’t the end of the world.

It’s not sunshine and roses either. Like most things in pregnancy (for me anyway), it’s a mixed bag. I’ll be stuffing my face with meat and cheese while sobbing over the dessert menu. If you’re a sister in sugar-free suffering, I salute you with my 8oz glass of whole milk. Cheers to getting through and meeting these tiny humans our bodies have miraculously grown. These kids better put us in the good old folks’ home.

Leave a Comment