My thoughts were uncontrollable, but my actions were not, so I followed the diet to the letter, even though I secretly knew what the results would be. My morning glucose test was within acceptable levels, which was a good indication that I had been following the diet.
Unfortunately, gestational diabetes is not about how much sugar you take in, but about how well your insulin responds to sugar. You cannot get gestational diabetes from eating too much sugar.
The placenta supplies a growing fetus with nutrients and water, as well as produces a variety of hormones to maintain the pregnancy. Some of these hormones (estrogen, cortisol, and human placental lactogen) can have a blocking effect on insulin. This is called contra-insulin effect, which usually begins about 20 to 24 weeks into the pregnancy.
As the placenta grows, more of these hormones are produced, and insulin resistance becomes greater. Normally, the pancreas is able to make additional insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but when the production of insulin is not enough to overcome the effect of the placental hormones, gestational diabetes results.
The juice they gave me was going to test my body's ability to cope with excess sugar. Sure enough, my first test after drinking the juice was too high. An hour later when they drew blood again it was still too high. The pregnancy hormones were causing my insulin to be slow and stupid about opening the receptors for the glucose to go into my cells and be processed correctly.
Though the third test was unnecessary after having failed the other two, they had me stick around to do it anyway and it was also high. That meant I had to make an appointment with a diabetic educator and a nutritionist, as well as start testing my blood sugar at home four times a day. Being deathly afraid of needles and not overly fond of blood, I was more than a little apprehensive about how well I was going to deal with this diagnosis.
I knew I had to take it seriously though because gestational diabetes is a serious thing. It doesn't just affect me, but it also affects the baby.
- Gestational diabetes babies are often bigger than non gestational diabetes babies. This can cause shoulder and other injuries during labor.
- Sometimes gestational diabetes babies can have abnormally low blood sugar after birth. They are no longer being pumped full of sugar from the mother and so are over producing insulin now.
- They have a higher risk for jaundice and breathing problems.
- And finally, if the diabetes is not kept under control there is a higher risk for stillbirth.
Later in life my baby will be at a higher risk for obesity, type two diabetes, and learning disabilities. These are all heartbreaking things for a mother to hear, and I was pretty devastated. My own risk for type two diabetes has gone up 50%, so I know that I am going to have set a good example and teach my son the right way to eat healthy.
Stay tuned for my next post on gestational diabetes entitled: Dealing with the Disease.