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Why Gestational Diabetes is a Prick

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.

Megan Ladner

Megan Ladner

Megan Ladner is the author of BebeHunter123, a blog which chronicles the day to day adventures of a Seattle SAHM, her British husband, and their baby named Hunter. Megan enjoys writing, photography, travel, fashion, and watching BravoTV on Monday evenings while she folds laundry. This August, she will be celebrating her fourth wedding anniversary with the love of her life.

21 comments

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  • I’m sorry to hear that you had to go through this! This was one of the things I feared of getting when I was pregnant with the twins! I know I had to do a lot of weekly stress test, monitoring, etc and that was a pain!

  • So I am 33 weeks pregnant and failed the 1 hour and the 3 hours not for too much and not as high as 153 I’m around 110/115 yet my doctor wants me to retake the 3 hours one before using sulfa or even thinking about insulin. I’m really scared

    • Maria, Don’t be scared! Gestational Diabetes just means that you will receive extra medical attention from your doctor and you will need to keep on top of your diet while pregnant. My Obstetrician really pushed for me to use Glyburide, the sulfa based drug to keep my blood sugar levels within range. She insisted that all of her GD patients use it because it is a very helpful drug. Insulin is FDA approved for treating GD. I had success with Glyburide lowering my fasting blood sugar until my allergic reaction. Good luck with your pregnancy. Try to deliver at a hospital that has a NICU in case your little one has blood sugar issues after birth. I did that and it gave me piece of mind during the birthing process. Best wishes!

  • I didn’t develop that during my pregnancies, but I’m so glad that they know how to monitor and treat it so well. I’m glad it all turned out well in the end for you!

  • Ugh, I feel your pain. I believe that they missed GD in my first pregnancy and I had a baby that was almost 10 pounds. Then I had GD with baby two, but not with baby three… I even had them do the tests twice… I was that concerned and no GD… so there is hope

  • I had gestational diabetes too and it is awful! Totally ruined my pregnancy! I had 3 seperate hospital stays, 2 of those being a week each. I was also having to go to hospital every week (towards the end 3 times a week) from 30 weeks and at 37 weeks I had to be induced because I also had pre eclampsia. I was told all through that I would have a large baby which terrified me but he was 6lb when he was born.
    Good luck if there is a next one, I hope all goes smoothly x

    • Thanks Sharon! I was so ill during my pregnancy. Even now, when I talk to other moms about their pregnancies, no one seemed to be as sick as I was during the whole time. Big babies run on my side of the family so I was expecting a 9lb+ baby even without the GD diagnosis. Interestingly, my mom and sister had no blood sugar issues during their pregnancies but had 9lb and 10lb babies.

  • I had gest. diabetes with my second son. It made the pregnancy quite exhausting but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was scary at first but I soon figured out what my body could handle in terms of food. He’s perfectly healthy and happy now!

  • My son was 9.2 and born via c-section because we were in the hospital for 14 hours and he was not coming down the pipe.. I am glad that everything worked out for you and your son.. pregnancy is very scary regardless of thinking this may happen again.

  • I am really glad to hear that everything turned out perfectly for you! What gets me angry is why the heck don’t doctors listen when you tell them you are allergic to something——-I am allergic to iodine internally and externally. Of course to make it easier to read a test they shot iodine into me–I blossomed–they got scared–and I glared and would not let them anywhere near me!!

  • That is totally crazy how much you had to go to the doctor once you reached 36 weeks–I cannot even imagine. That is very scary to have to deal with the idea of gestational diabetes.

  • I had the test done when I was pregnant for my first. I was thankful I didn’t have it. Thanks for sharing glad everything is okay.

  • I had to end up taking the three hour glucose test with all three of my babies. I am so thankful that I never had to go through all the finger pricking and additional monitoring. My one hour scores were boarder line and the three hour came back clear. I guess my body just took a bit longer to metabolize the sugars.

About Author

Megan Ladner

Megan Ladner

Megan Ladner is the author of BebeHunter123, a blog which chronicles the day to day adventures of a Seattle SAHM, her British husband, and their baby named Hunter. Megan enjoys writing, photography, travel, fashion, and watching BravoTV on Monday evenings while she folds laundry. This August, she will be celebrating her fourth wedding anniversary with the love of her life.