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Sep 15 / Caro

Dealing With the GD Crowd

Gestational Diabetes is a form of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy. Having now experienced first hand the insulin resistance of pregnancy, I completely understand why it happens. I’m taking at least three times as much insulin as I was pre-pregnancy, so it’s little wonder to me that not all non-diabetic women’s bodies can cope with providing for this increased demand. When it doesn’t, Gestational Diabetes (or GD) is the result.

On the one hand, I feel very much for these women. They usually find out in the middle of their pregnancy that they have a condition that is going to potentially affect the size  and health of their baby, and that they are the only people who can influence the outcome by adopting a raft of new a different behaviours especially associated with food. It’s pretty much the epitome of being “thrown in the deep end”.

I had years to get used to the way that diabetes affects my life and food. I had a long time to learn the skills to keep it tightly controlled where the occasional slip did not put a baby – another life – at risk. I had a long time before getting pregnant to get my head around what a diabetic pregnancy entails, what the risks are, exactly what I can do to minimise them and what sort of delivery I might be faced with (i.e probable early induction). I already had the necessary basic skills and did not have to learn these as I went along. Women with GD learn all of this in the middle of their pregnancy and have little choice but to learn fast and get on with it. It has to be tough.

On the other hand, though, my empathy can be severely tested. The biggest piece of good news that comes with a diagnosis of GD is that it goes away after the birth. Since it is the placenta that produces all of the hormones that lead to the marked increase in insulin requirements, as soon as the placenta is delivered, things go back to normal. Women with GD do have a higher risk of developing type 2 later in life, but that would have existed regardless of having had GD. The presence of GD simply alerts them to that risk in their life.

It’s hard for a person with long standing type 1 to listen to women with GD complain about how awful it is having to restrict their diet, and how unbearable the remaining weeks will be. Because they always suffix that with “I can’t wait to eat {insert favourite treat} when I’m not diabetic any more.”

It’s hard to listen to women with GD complaining about how awful injecting themselves is, and how much they dislike doing it. Because they always suffix that with “At least it will be gone soon.”

It’s hard to listen to women with GD complaining about how much they hate pricking their fingers to test their blood sugars and how recording the results is a nuisance. Because they usually only test three or four times each day and they always suffix their complaints with “It won’t be for much longer”.

Diabetes wraps itself around these women’s pregnancies, but it does not infiltrate in to their wider life.

Coming across women with gestational diabetes shines a spotlight on the permanence of my own diabetes. I’ve already been doing this for years, and it won’t go away once the baby is born. When I’m learning to breastfeed a newborn, and dress and change their nappies, I’ll still be diabetic. When I’m sharing those first precious cuddles and bonding with my baby, my blood sugars will still be in the back of my mind. I’ll still be diabetic when they smile for the first time, take their first steps and celebrate their first birthday. The potential for long term complications hangs like a spectre over my shoulder, waiting to try to seize a part of my child’s future from me.

All I can do is focus on the silver lining that exists for those of us with pre-existing diabetes; That pre-existing knowledge of how to manage it. I’m under no illusion about the power of diabetes and understand just how seriously I need to take it, every single day. So whilst I may have to continue to live with diabetes after the baby is born, I’m in the best position I can be to ensure that my baby doesn’t have to suffer as a result of my diabetes.

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