Why Gestational Diabetes is a Prick

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When I was five months pregnant and days away from making a cross country move, my perinatologist’s office called me with some bad news. My one hour blood glucose test had come back with a blood sugar level of 153.

pregnant-gestational

The nurse wanted to schedule me for a three hour glucose syrup test, but I was in the midst of packing my belongings and taking care of last minute moving issues. I knew that if I had to sit in a lab and drink that sugary junk, I’d be puking during the test and feeling non-functional for the rest of the day.

I told the nurse that I would follow up with the lab but I never did. Instead, I decided to focus on finishing my move and waited to take the three hour glucose test under the guidance of the new obstetrician I would be seeing for pregnancy care on the West Coast.

My new obstetrician scheduled the three hour glucose test for me right away. I don’t remember what my blood sugar levels were but she immediately prescribed a sulfa based drug to get them under control. She had been attending a lot of medical conferences on gestational diabetes and was a very strong proponent for using the medication to control blood sugar during pregnancy.

In theory, it sounded great, but there was one small glitch. I am allergic to sulfa. It causes me to hyperventilate and break out in hives. I mentioned this to the obstetrician but she insisted that I use the medication to control my blood sugar.

I was also referred to gestational diabetes counseling at the local hospital. A nurse taught me how to prick my finger so I could test my blood sugar using a glucometer. She also explained that eating carbohydrates affected blood sugar levels.

For the rest of my pregnancy, I needed to eat less than 30 carbs at breakfast, less than 45 carbs at lunch, and less than 60 carbs at dinner. Plus, I needed to test my blood sugar after every meal. The acceptable one hour post-prandial range is under 140.

I started using the medicine for about one week. My blood sugar fasting levels needed to be below 90. The medicine lowered my fasting levels to the mid 90s. My obstetrician was pleased with the progress. However, the next week when my husband and I were out of town, I experienced an allergic reaction to the sulfa. I started to feel like my throat was closing up and I couldn’t breathe. My skin felt itchy all over. I popped a few anti-histamine tablets to stop the reaction and called my doctor’s office. She wasn’t happy with the outcome and referred me to the diabetic clinic to learn how to inject insulin.

The nurse at the diabetic clinic was very kind and prescribed insulin for me to use on a nightly basis. She taught me how to inject the needle into my thigh. I did my best to watch my carb intake and monitored my blood sugar levels four times per day. My fasting blood sugar levels while using insulin were always somewhere between 94 and 105.

I always felt very disappointed with my body when I tested my blood sugar in the morning because I wanted those levels to be under 90 so my baby would be born healthy. I did a pretty good job of keeping my blood sugar under control through diet during the rest of the day.

When I reached 36 weeks, I had two to three medical appointments a week to monitor how my baby was faring through this whole process. My obstetrician was sending me for weekly ultrasounds which was great because I got to see my baby every week. He was a little cutie with the chubbiest cheeks. She also had me visit her office twice per week to monitor his fetal heart rate. It was always normal.

The radiologists predicted that I would have a 9 pound baby and so my obstetrician and I decided that the safest way for me to deliver would be via c-section. She was concerned about the baby’s shoulder getting stuck in the birth canal if I opted for a natural delivery. I did not want any further complications with my son’s birth so I had no qualms about having a c-section. When I hit the 40 week mark, my doctor asked me to pick a date to be admitted to the hospital and have labor induced. After 30 hours of Pitocin-induced labor and being dilated only one centimeter, my obstetrician finally arranged for my c-section.

My son Hunter weighed nine pounds, two ounces at birth. I remember the obstetrician remarking that he had a perfectly round head as she pulled him out of my uterus. He was closely monitored by hospital staff for signs of blood sugar fluctuations. This meant that he needed to have his little heels pricked every few hours on his first day of life. After he was determined to be healthy, we were wheeled to the recovery unit.

Six hours after my c-section, I got up out of my hospital bed to walk to the bathroom. My obstetrician was really impressed when she saw me walking around the recovery ward with Hunter the next morning. We were able to be released from the hospital two days later.

While I am so grateful that I gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby, getting pregnant again does worry me. Currently, my blood sugar is normal and I am not diabetic. However, I have had pre-pregnancy consultations with three different obstetricians and they are all of the opinion that I will have gestational diabetes with my next pregnancy. Next time, I will be starting the insulin and a carb controlled diet much sooner.