I’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes – now what?

gestational diabetes

By Sara Keli

When you sit the glucose tolerance test, you never expect that your doctor will be telling you that you have gestational diabetes (also known as gestational diabetes mellitus, or GDM). And yet, here you are, with a diagnosis that seems all a little bit too scary … so what do you do?

You need to take it seriously, but you can also break it down into a plan of attack.

Take a deep breath

Firstly, take a big deep breath. Gestational diabetes does complicate your pregnancy, but if you follow your doctor’s advice and use the medical support that’s available to you, you can still have an enjoyable pregnancy. And the ultimate reward is waiting for you at the end of it … your baby!

Remember that you didn’t cause your diabetes and there’s no need to feel guilty – some women are just more at risk of developing gestational diabetes due to a combination of factors. And you’re far from alone: according to Diabetes Australia, gestational diabetes is the fastest growing type of diabetes in Australia, with 12-14% of all pregnant women developing it. It usually occurs around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.

No, gestational diabetes is not just a minor inconvenience, and yes, it can be serious, but while you are looking after your body and your baby, you also need to look after your mental health. Talk about how you are feeling and don’t bottle it in. Pregnancy is already an emotional time as it is, without any added pressure.

Educate yourself

Your doctor has probably already bombarded you with information and referred you to the specialists you need to see to support you through your pregnancy with gestational diabetes. It’s really important that you read that information and educate yourself the best you can.

Gestational diabetes requires careful management by a team of specialists – ask them all your questions until you get the answers you need. Read whatever resources they provide you and arm yourself with the information you need to manage your diabetes.

Sort your pantry

A huge part of managing gestational diabetes is diet, so once you have seen your nutritionist, get your pantry under control. Remove any foods that you shouldn’t be eating, either out of the pantry altogether or to a separate section of the pantry that is a no-go zone. Likewise with the fridge.

Organise meal plans so you don’t need to think about what you will be eating each day, and stock the pantry with the foods you need for those meals.

Also keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand, as well as breakfast and lunch options.

Make time for exercise

Another factor in managing your gestational diabetes is exercise and movement. You need to build time for exercise into your calendar each week. Rope in an exercise buddy if you need someone to keep you accountable, or join a pregnancy fitness class (be sure to tell the instructor that you have gestational diabetes).

It’s not about pushing yourself, but about looking after yourself. Remember that! Do what works for you: walking, swimming, whatever it is that will make the exercise you need to do a time that you don’t resent. Who knows, you may even discover a new hobby or interest!

Always reach out for help

If you are anxious or concerned, or you suddenly have a spike in your blood glucose levels, or anything out of the ordinary happens, you should always seek medical advice from your doctor or midwife. That’s what they are there for! When it comes to pregnancy, there is no point in taking any chances. It’s better to pick up the phone to ask a question than not ask because you feel silly and risk something happening to you or your baby.

Once you’ve processed your diagnosis, it’s time to put one foot in front of the other and focus your mind on the goal of pregnancy: holding your beautiful, healthy baby in your arms. Whatever you have to do to get to that end goal, it’s 100% worth it!

For more information, visit Diabetes Australia or speak to your doctor or midwife.

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