Where has the time gone and how are we already halfway through this pregnancy? I didn’t believe a single person that told me that pregnancy goes by fast, but I am starting to realize just how true it is! When I found out I was pregnant at 4 weeks and 2 days I couldn’t help but think that 20 weeks seemed like an eternity, yet here we are in what seems like a blink of an eye.
At this point we have already had a few appointments, and everything has gone really well. My first appointment wasn’t until I was 8 weeks – which is very typical. At the first appointment they went over family medical history, basic pregnancy info – what to do/not to do, had some blood drawn and vitals taken.
At my 12-week appointment we got to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. I will never forget that moment, it made everything seem more real – there was an actual baby in there, as if I hadn’t known that already! By this time, I had been tested twice for glucose and protein levels – you do this every time you go in for an OB appointment. At both appointments it showed I had elevated glucose levels. After the first appointment they wanted to check my Hemaglobin A1C levels – for those of you not familiar this measure what percentage of your hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen) is coated with sugar. The higher your A1C level, the poorer your blood sugar control and the higher your risk of diabetes complications. The A1C test measures your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. The results of your A1C test can help your doctor identify prediabetes, diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes, etc. Those results were normal.
Following the 12-week appointment they had wanted to have me schedule an early glucose screening test due to the fact that I had been spilling excess sugar at each testing and with having a family history of type 2 diabetes. This test is routinely recommended to pregnant women sometime between their 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Typically, there is very little or no sugar (glucose) in urine during pregnancy. But when blood sugar levels in the body are too high, excess sugar can end up in the urine. This can be seen with gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that only develops during pregnancy.
So what is the gestational diabetes test? First of all, when I understood what this test was for, the whole experience seemed less scary. That’s pretty typical though — the more prepared you feel, the less scary things seem!
Basically, Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is a condition that happens when a pregnant woman — not formerly diagnosed with diabetes — develops high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Normally, insulin (a hormone) is released by the pancreas to help get blood sugar inside your cells to be used as energy. However, during pregnancy, rising hormone levels that serve to help grow baby also impair the action of insulin, which means that blood sugar rises too. So why is this a concern? Gestational diabetes carries a number of risks for both mother and baby. For mom, there is an increased risk for preeclampsia and cesarean section. For baby, a large birth weight, shoulder dystocia and birth injury, and low blood sugar shortly after birth may result.
Despite this, moms with gestational diabetes and their babies can indeed go on to lead healthy, active, and vibrant lives. So fellow mommas, if you’re reading this and have or are concerned about gestational diabetes, please know that everything will be OK.
The 1-hour glucose tolerance test breaks down like this. You will be given a sugary glucose test drink and are required to drink the full bottle. You can take this test at home or at the doctor’s office but are required to wait 1 hour after finishing the drink before having the lab draw some of your blood. That’s it – Pretty simple huh? You will get the results within a few days. Personally, I didn’t think it tasted good, but I didn’t find it all that hard to drink – so perhaps it depends on your sweet tooth!
I received the results back and was informed that my levels were slightly elevated. Normal range is 65-140 mg/dL and my levels were at 139 mg/dL. Therefore, I had to come back in for a 3-hour test.
“You failed,” shared the nurse to me on the phone after my prenatal glucose screening test. I was crushed. Disappointed. Frustrated. And fearful of what might be at risk for me – and more importantly, for my baby. Throughout the prior weeks of my pregnancy, I strived to achieve balance in my food choices and exercises regularly. I enjoyed fresh fruit, drank smoothies with vegetables, ate whole grains, incorporated nuts and seeds, you name it! I occasionally included sweet treats, of course, but more importantly, I listened in to my own hunger and fullness cues – eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was satisfied. But when I heard the news that I failed my screening test, I thought that I had done something wrong. I just didn’t know what. I felt embarrassed – naively thinking, I am a healthy person after all, how could this happen to me?!
The 3-hour glucose tolerance test is more difficult to complete and it was more taxing for me physically. However, DO NOT assume that just because you have to take the test that you’ve already failed. I was sure that the second test was just a formality for me, but it turns out that I passed the second test and did NOT have gestational diabetes! This time I was asked to fast before-hand – TIP: since you will be fasting 8-12 hours before the testing schedule your appointment first thing in the morning, as your fasting is overnight. You will be required to stay at your provider’s office for three hours after drinking the solution, and have your blood drawn three times (once per hour) NOTE: You are not permitted to eat during the entire three-hour testing period. I was also only permitted small sips of water throughout the test. This three-hour test gives a much more accurate representation of how your body metabolizes sugar, and if you fail this test too, then you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Fortunately for me, I passed the 3-hour test with normal levels. I will however have to repeat the 1-hour glucose tolerance screening again around 28 weeks as normal.
At 16 weeks we had another appointment much like the prior 12-week appointment. Spoke with my OB, had vitals taken, got to listen to the baby’s heartbeat – this is typical of every appointment.
At 20 weeks we had the anatomy scan! The anatomy scan is the ultrasound performed about half-way through a pregnancy, normally between 18-22 weeks. During this scan, an ultrasound technician does a detailed ultrasound of your baby, taking pictures of every body part and organ to make sure that your baby is developing the way it should. This is when many parents also often find out the sex of their baby. I did not find out the sex during my anatomy scan – more on that decision later!
Our due date of December 11 was confirmed, and baby was healthy and growing right on track! The ultrasound was pretty long – about 40 minutes give or take. Ben stood right behind me the whole time as we got to see our baby’s tiny hands and feet moving about. We even had the opportunity to get a 3D image of him or her. The tech was not able to get a few needed pictures of the heart because baby wasn’t cooperating – I can already tell this will be a stubborn child. So, we had to get a second ultrasound scheduled during my next appointment at 24 weeks – but I won’t complain I will take any opportunity to see my baby. It is typical to only receive 1 ultrasound around 20 weeks during your pregnancy which I was not aware of prior to becoming pregnant.
It is hard to describe the feeling of being able to see your baby for the first time. I couldn’t help but smile and even shed a few tears as I saw them move about. Prior to my appointment I had felt little movements here and there, but it wasn’t until I could see our baby move on the screen at the same moment of feeling them that it became much more surreal. I instantly felt more connected to this baby which I couldn’t even imagine was possible.
As the pregnancy progresses, I am noticing not only my growing belly, but a few other symptoms. I have experienced a little bit of round ligament pain, higher energy levels, increased appetite and shortness of breath – thank you baby for pressing up against my lungs. Overall, I have had an awesome pregnancy so far and have felt great! I am continuing to exercise as I feel, eat a balanced diet and continue my normal daily activities. I am trying not to let a number on a scale or guidelines upset me when my body is trying to do what it needs to do to support a healthy pregnancy. I am healthy. My baby is healthy. And that’s all that matters!