What is Gestational Diabetes

My body is trying to do the right thing, really.

It just isn’t succeeding.

I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes very early in the second trimester of my pregnancy. For the uninitiated, that’s early.

Though women who are overweight (like me), over 30 (yep), or have a family history of diabetes (got me again) are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, there are really no guarantees against it. It’s not caused by eating sugar, and even the most fitness-obsessed mothers can develop the disease.

That’s because gestational diabetes is actually caused by the hormones that cause so many other, um, interesting changes in a pregnant woman’s body.

The placenta, which develops to nourish the unborn baby, creates a hormone that is essentially the anti-insulin. The purpose is to elevate mom’s blood sugar just enough so that mom’s body doesn’t hoard energy that the baby needs. In some women, though, the placenta is really good at producing that hormone, so good that it over-elevates mom’s blood sugar.

And that causes problems for mom and baby. Blood that is over-saturated with sugar moves more slowly, and that means higher blood pressure and increased chance of infection. It also means that baby ends up getting too much sugar, which can causes her to grow too big, too fast, and therefore can lead to a more dangerous delivery or an increased need for a C-section. It also can cause the baby to have a sugar-crash after birth, when she’s removed from the sugar-rich environment.

In short, not cool (though for those of us who love biology, it is rather fascinating).

The good news is that gestational diabetes can be caught early and it often can be controlled.

So far, I’ve been lucky to be able control my gestational diabetes with diet and a bit of exercise, though it may get worse and require insulin as the placenta gets bigger and produces more anti-insulin.

It isn’t easy, though. I test my blood glucose levels four times a day — first thing in the morning and two hours after each meal — by pricking my finger. I also follow a super-strict eating schedule and almost-as-strict diet that’s low not only in the junk food that we often think of as “sugar” but in all carbohydrates, including grains and fruit.

I won’t lie: I miss a lot of things … bread, pasta, french fries, desserts and, most of all, orange juice.

But for anyone else experiencing this pregnancy adventure, I do promise that it’s possible. Most women will only have to deal with gestational diabetes for about two months, and I’ve already done that (with, unfortunately, four months to go).

You can do it, too.

Coming soon: I’ll share my carb limits, meal and snack schedule, and favorite go-to foods, as well as my plans (and successes or failures) navigating the long, food-dominated holiday season.

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