Women who have been living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have the benefit of experience when balancing diabetes and pregnancy. Women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, or GDM, need to learn on the fly.
That's what Marissa Valeri, 35, of Rockville, Md., discovered when she was diagnosed with GDM while pregnant with her son, Xavi, now 4. Valeri says she had no known family history of diabetes when, at her 20-week prenatal checkup, her blood glucose test results "failed spectacularly."
GDM is the most common form of diabetes during pregnancy, affecting about 4 percent of pregnant women. Hormonal changes that develop in the second trimester cause your body to resist insulin, which can cause high blood glucose for mom. Some women can manage GDM with diet and exercise, as Valeri did. She used strict portion control, carb counting, and exercise, along with frequent blood glucose tests, to keep her health in check.
"I was way into fruit at that point in my pregnancy, and I had to give up my oranges," she remembers. "I would get away with the fruit in the afternoon because I knew I would be walking to the Metro [to balance with exercise]."
Valeri says because of her diligence and careful monitoring by her obstetrician, endocrinologist, and nutritionist, she had no complications, and Xavi was born at a normal 7 pounds, 11 ounces.
Leanne Steele, 31, of Trussville, Ala., found she needed to use insulin when she was diagnosed with GDM while pregnant with her son Tyler, now 4. And like many women who have GDM during pregnancy, she developed type 2 diabetes after Tyler was born. Nearly half of women who have gestational diabetes are diagnosed with type 2 in the 10 years following their pregnancy. However, Steele says staying active helped her have healthy and safe deliveries of both Tyler and her newborn son, MJ. She participated in her local Tour de Cure® bike ride at nearly nine months pregnant. "I continued my workout routine of running and spin classes. I even ran on a marathon relay team while five months pregnant," Steele says. "I knew that if I did everything I could to stay healthy, my baby would be healthy, too."
For more information on gestational diabetes, visit diabetes.org/GDM.