The Glucose Tolerance Test
Like every other pregnant woman, I went in to take a Glucose Tolerance Test one fine morning in the 25th week of pregnancy. If you have never taken a Glucose Tolerance Test, let me tell you how bad it is… first of all, you need to fast for 10 to 12 hours. Imagine doing this while being pregnant and being swamped with nausea. Empty stomach never helps!
First, they take a fasting blood test then they give you a bottle of this extremely sweet juice and make you drink it within 5 minutes of sharing it. Then they take blood sugar test after the first second and third hour. It was hell!
Once they get the results they see if the blood sugar levels are within the parameters. If more than one of your tests fall in the abnormal range, you have a risk for Gestational Diabetes.
So they sent me straight to a Perinatologist’s (A perinatologist is a physician that works in conjunction with a patient’s obstetrician when pregnancy complications develop) office next day. I did not know much about gestational diabetes until I met her….. and I should have known. Gestational diabetes happens when your body can’t produce more insulin to handle the pregnancy hormones. Risks include high chances having an obese baby, the baby getting diabetes later in its lifetime, complications during delivery and diabetes becoming permanent.
About Gestational Diabetes
When you’re pregnant, your body naturally becomes more resistant to insulin so that more glucose is available to nourish your baby. For most moms-to-be, this isn’t a problem: When your body needs additional insulin to process excess glucose in the blood, the pancreas secretes more. But if the pancreas can’t keep up with the increased demand for insulin during pregnancy, blood sugar levels rise too high because the cells aren’t using the glucose. This results in gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes needs to be recognized and treated quickly because it can cause health problems for mother and baby.
The Perinatologist went on to explain that I need to check my blood sugar 4 times every day; one while fasting and one after every meal. I had to keep a log of the numbers and call them if the sugars are high for more than 2 times in a week. Moreover, I was advised to bring the login for every monthly checkup with my OB. She referred me to a dietitian to plan my meals. I was given a One Touch machine and was sent home.
When I came back home, I was so depressed and scared out of my mind…. more than the fact that diabetes could become permanent for me, I feared for the health of my baby. I cried on my husband’s shoulders. The fear I felt for the tiny human growing inside me was enough to consume me.
Despite the persistent hunger, I was afraid to even take a sip of water that day. When I spoke to my dad in India he was surprised that they had asked me to prick my fingers 4 times a day and was not given any medication to handle the problem.
Meet the Dietitian
Next day I met with the dietitian. Imagine talking to a dietitian who has no clue about Indian food or culture! It took me Google images and 45 minutes to explain what a Dosa looks like! But she did help! She was my angel! She explained that I could battle GD with just diet, exercise and a good positive attitude. Cut down on carbs and sugars and exercise for at least 10 mins after every meal. She gave me a diet plan and a whole lot of hope. She explained that anxiety increases blood sugar and I needed to calm down. I needed to keep fasting sugars below 90 and postprandial below 130.
It was one of the most frustrating moments of my life. No matter how much I tried, it wasn’t enough. The first week was hell. And the pregnancy blues don’t help either. That was the time I saw my husband in a new light too. He was constantly there for me. Living alone in the US with no support system brought us closer. He pushed me to fight the problem and not give up or opt for medication. Love is a powerful tool… It gives you hope and energy to fight. Karthik dieted with me when I went all quinoa on food and added more protein. He gave me company when I worked out. He kept telling me that I was the only person who had the self-control and guts to handle this problem.
Turning Lemons in to Lemonade
I became obsessed. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade was my new mantra. I really wanted to turn it into a positive experience. Protein-based food became my new favourite. I came to appreciate our Indian food more. The variety of food I was able to cook with lentils alone helped me avoid carbs. I ate only proteins in the mornings and added little carbs as the day went. I Netflixed and worked out for 30 mins on my elliptical after every meal.
The workouts helped in increasing my endorphins more and helped me combat pregnancy blues. I started seeing changes in my body slowly. Even though my pregnant belly became bigger my body became leaner and firmer. My confidence grew as my blood sugars came under control. My fasting sugars were less than 80 and my post-prandials were less than 120! Take that, life!
Of Lentils and everything Proteins
My OB had said that they might do an ultrasound to check on my baby if my tummy measurements exceed the weekly growth parameters. But the baby’s growth was textbook perfect and there was no need for an ultrasound at all. My OB became very happy with my sugar numbers and the baby’s growth rate. My diet was protein rich in mornings- crispy pesarattu dosas with a variety of curries, dal vadas, dal adai, egg omelette with vegetables, quinoa dosa or idly with meat-based curries, lunch was either rotis or quinoa with curries and eggs and Biriyani!
It was not easy, especially as the time for labour and delivery neared… but, I managed to work out until the day before delivery.
Immediately after my water broke, I was admitted to the hospital and the first things they checked was my blood sugar level. The nurse smiled at me and told me that I did a great job and this avoided complications. Once my little angel Pranav was born, they checked his sugar levels and he was just perfect!!
A word of advice
Gestational Diabetes is getting more common these days and that is something to seriously think about. Aligning your weight and bringing it back to normal according to your body mass index before pregnancy matters a great deal. In India, pregnant mothers are asked to be careful all the time during pregnancy and are afraid of working out. We are given so much to eat. And not to forget the “you are eating for two now” phrase. But it is important to know that it is perfectly fine to work out and have a healthy diet!