Are you pregnant? Have you been tested for gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a condition in which women without previously diagnosed diabetes have high blood sugar during pregnancy. This condition can lead to complications for mother and baby during the pregnancy, and, if left untreated, could also cause seizures, miscarriage and still birth. However, with early detection and treatment, you can manage these problems and still have a healthy baby.
Capetonian Celeste Smith is no stranger to gestational diabetes: she has had it twice, most recently during her pregnancy with twins Connor and Adam. She tells Bridget McNulty of Sweet Life Magazine, what she wishes she had known before she fell pregnant.
Why are you sharing this very personal story?
I want to educate, encourage and motivate women with gestational diabetes, and prevent other women from having to go through what I and many others had to endure.
How did you find out you had gestational diabetes?
My first pregnancy was stillborn: Noah was born at 38 weeks. I didn’t know I had gestational diabetes until after Noah was born. We suspected that I could one day become diabetic because it runs in my family, but my doctor at the time never picked it up. When I wanted to fall pregnant again, my new doctor, Dr Jansen immediately tested for glucose tolerance before I fell pregnant, and then again after I fell pregnant. That’s how we found out I had gestational diabetes again.
What were your symptoms?
What’s tricky about gestational diabetes is that it goes from nothing to full-blown diabetes very quickly. It’s only when you’re pregnant, so there’s no warning beforehand. The symptoms I had were swollen hands and feet, bad circulation, pins and needles in the hands, and constantly thirsty – I was drinking a lot of water.
Does diabetes run in the family?
Yes, my late mother had type 2 diabetes, and three of my sisters and my brother have diabetes (half of my eight siblings!) It’s also because of bad lifestyle choices, though – eating take-out and cakes and picking up weight can lead to type 2. None of my family recognised my symptoms, but none of us were looking: you put your faith in the doctor, that’s what doctors are there for.
What did you do to manage your gestational diabetes?
During my pregnancy with the twins, I was put on Metformin and later insulin. I also had to have monthly HbA1c tests and test my blood sugar seven times a day: when I woke up, before each meal, after each meal and before I went to bed. My fingers had so many holes in them, I didn’t know where to prick myself! I went to a dietician, which was helpful.
We discussed good eating habits and made a lot of changes – we started eating more steamed foods and not so much starch (like potatoes, bread and pasta). And I started exercising. My diabetes doctor, Dr Dave, told me I had to exercise every day, even when I was tired after working all day. These days my boys are my exercise – running after them keeps me fit! We try to go for walks with them most weekends, to different parks or Sea Point Promenade.
How did your pregnancy with your twins differ from your previous pregnancy?
It felt completely different – so much better. With my twins, I had a great team of doctors who didn’t take any risks and were very careful with my babies and my health. Most importantly I had the treatment I needed.
Have you had to change your diet at all, since having gestational diabetes?
After nine months of being so good and strict, all I wanted was a chocolate cake – a whole one! But my doctor said I still had to be careful. After the birth, the diabetes was gone immediately, in the first hour, can you believe it? They did blood tests on myself and the twins straight away, and our blood sugar was normal. These days I’m not as strict as I was during my pregnancy, but I maintain a healthier diet because I know I’m at risk of type 2 diabetes. I also don’t want to set my boys on the wrong path – family plays a big part in good eating habits.
How do you balance a busy lifestyle with eating right and exercise?
With good planning, anything is possible. We have our routines as a family and as a married couple. Once you become familiar with eating healthy and maintaining some exercise, it becomes your lifestyle. My husband, Enver, is supportive and hands-on, so that makes it easier to have twins, a full-time job and run a household!
What advice would you offer to women with gestational diabetes?
Listen to your doctors, stick to your eating plan and exercise a little bit every day. Stay focused: this is for the health of your babies. It helps that you just have to stay focused for nine months, and then the reward at the end is breathtaking. My boys were big for twins (2.8kg each at 35 weeks) and healthy. I’ll never forget how relieved I was to hear my babies crying in the delivery room. They were both crying at the same time, and the doctor said: “Wow, they sound like a choir!”
What makes your life sweet?
I could say sunsets and sunrises, I could say my religion or even cupcakes and chocolates. But my husband and two boys are the light of my life, and sharing everything with them makes my life so sweet.
(Written by Bridget McNulty for Sweet Life Magazine. Photo: Mark Peddle)
- (Health24, November 2012)
Gestational diabetes explained
Gestational diabetes and your baby
Diabetes: who is at risk?
Diabetes and diet: the basics
Any questions? Ask our Diabetes Expert