What I've learned about gestational diabetes

I created my website in 2001 as a result of being very dissatisfied with my pregnancy experience with gestational diabetes. I was scared. I felt alone. I had a really hard time finding information.

When I made the site, I didn’t think I would find many others like me, maybe a handful. Since then I’ve been overwhelmed not only with members and posts on the site but desperate emails sent to me by women with all types of diabetes - type 1, type 2, and women with gestational diabetes. I remember what it was like, and I feel for them.

When I got pregnant, my doctor had me see a diabetes educator. She freaked out and the rollercoaster began.

I had so many appointments, pamplets, and lectures, it’s all a blur. It was a very negative experience. There was no “congratulations!” or really anything positive. I was told my A1c was too high, and that I had a chance of losing the baby. I was told all the risks, complications, history of diabetes, etc. So that was it. I was going to lose it. I was convinced.

Almost every initial personal email I get from someone with gestational diabetes is from someone in that mindset. They think they are going to lose their baby. They are in sheer panic.

As my pregnancy progressed, I got my HbA1c into very tight control, in the 4’s and 5’s. I got tested up the wazoo (literally, haha). Because of how I was dealt with, the brief wording and grave faces, I thought the baby had Downs and birth defects. I accepted it and prepared. My husband and I are not naive stupid people. But I don’t think caregivers realize what impact their comments have, combined with those of nurses and tech’s.

I’ve had nurses tell me they would rather have cancer than diabetes. I’ve had tech’s tell me it’s too bad I’m going to lose a foot. It wasn’t only health professionals either. Friends and family who had seen movies like Steel Magnolias were predicting my death. I hear shocking things from the ladies with gestational diabetes who contact me.

When my son came out healthy and normal, I was shocked. My entire pregnancy was a very high-stress experience. Most of it was negative. I was lucky that halfway through I found a midwife who educated me and let me know that I COULD do this and let me know I was doing an awesome job. She was one little glimmer in the sea of images that were like Evard Munch’s The Scream painting.

Now that I look back. I realize the doctors and others were not evil. They had a limited amount of time with me, and these are very serious issues and facts they had to get across within minutes. These are very valid issues. However, it would have been nice if they had injected a little bit of happiness or positiveness and mentioned they were talking about risks and statistics…not about my current situation.

When I chat with these ladies with gestational diabetes, I ask if they actually have lab tests or something that confirms that something is wrong. I ask if they’ve been asked to go in for extra appointments, monitoring, or appointments. It turns out the many of them already have really nice HbA1c levels. When I tell them, it sounds like the doctor is just trying to get these warnings and facts across so that you understand the importance of compliance, I am met with profound relief.

Often a woman with gestational diabetes won’t ask her doctor more questions because they are confused, in shock and are afraid to hear more. If they got gestational diabetes in pregnancy, they are sometimes ashamed, feeling they caused it with bad habits. They worry they will get scolded. If they had pre-existing diabetes, they are worried the doctor may be implying they shouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place. So they clam up.

It’s not uncommon for me to hear that an HbA1c came back at 4.5% and the doctor was still negative rather than telling them good job. They don’t understand what they are doing wrong. I remember so well.

When I tell ladies with gestational diabetes or even those who are thinking about getting pregnant that if they have no pre-existing complications, good healthcare, comply/work with their doctor, and get their A1c levels into tight control, they could have about the same chance as a non-diabetic to have a successful pregnancy - the fight begins. They work hard and they are able to enjoy their pregnancy. It’s amazing how positive messages can be strong as well.