Being diagnosed with GD can make the rest of your pregnancy and birth a scary time. There are so many myths out there about GD and how it can be managed, and the impact that it has on mums and bubs that women are left feeling confused, uninformed, and like they have no options. It can leave some women feeling backed into a corner.
Here I am going to, very briefly, touch on some of the more common myths associated with a GD diagnosis and hopefully open up a bit of positivity in regards to GD.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion blog. I am not an “expert” on gestational diabetes. I hold no medical qualifications. You should not base any decisions solely on this blog (or any other blog that I or anyone else have ever written). This piece is based on my own experience, and the experiences of other women, of receiving a diagnosis of gestational diabetes and things that we’ve heard / read since then. If you find any of these points interesting then I recommend that you do more research and discuss them with your care provider.
Myth 1: The glucose tolerance test (GTT) is compulsory.
Every single test that you are offered during your pregnancy is optional and this one is no different. This should go without saying, but you have a right to make an informed decision about whether or not you have this test. It is actually becoming quite common for women, including those at higher risk for GD, to decline the GTT. Some women are choosing alternative methods of testing such as in home monitoring of BSLs, doing the test after eating a normal meal (rather than the glucose drink) or are choosing not to test at all. Only YOU can decide what is right for you.
Myth 2: A diagnosis of GD means that your baby will have health problems.
This is every pregnant woman’s worst nightmare and the first question most women ask is “what does this mean for my baby?” Actually the issue isn’t the GD in itself. It’s any uncontrolled blood sugar levels (BSLs) that cause the issues. Uncontrolled BSLs can cause the baby to grow too large, cause the placenta to start to deteriorate earlier and cause baby to have low blood sugars after birth. Well controlled BSLs are very unlikely to lead to health problems for your baby.
Your placenta may deteriorate early or last until well beyond 42 weeks. Just like a woman without GD you are still an individual. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Myth 3: You need to eat more carbs/less carbs/only certain carbs at certain times mixed with a certain amount of protein.
We are all individuals. Our bodies will all respond differently to different foods. Any dietary suggestions should take this into account. If you are being told what to eat without a full assessment of how different foods affect you, you are not being provided with evidence based care. Medications used to manage GD create a higher risk scenario than managing BSLs through diet alone so it is worth investing the effort to assess how different foods effect your BSLs as well as your energy levels. Some people will tell you that this or that WILL cause your BSLs to go up, but if you received your diagnosis of GD through the GTT then the only thing you know for sure messes with your BSLs is the glucose drink that you were given. Some women continue to eat normally and never return another high BSL reading. Some women try all manner of different diets before deciding that medication is needed.
I wouldn't recommend fairy bread even if you don't have GD. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Myth 4: Your baby will be HUGE!
I was told this all throughout my first pregnancy. It amazes me that this was considered the biggest risk…not the placenta malfunctioning or the baby having blood sugar issues after birth and no-one ever mentioned an increased risk of stillbirth. It was all about the size. Which never bothered me. Big babies are born healthily every day. My baby came out at 2.73 kgs (or 6 pd 1 oz). Yep – huge.
Uncontrolled BSLs can lead to a bigger baby. Ironically, if they interfere with the function of the placenta they can also lead to a smaller baby. The moral of the story is: If you have well controlled GD you might have a huge baby or a small baby or a perfectly average baby. Just like someone without a GD diagnosis.
Myth 5: You must be routinely induced at 37/38/39/40/41 weeks.
Yep – I’ve heard of women being told that they would be routinely induced at all these different gestations for diet controlled GD based solely on the policy of their care provider. What does it tell you when policy makers across the country can’t agree on the “best” time for a GD baby to be born? Maybe there isn’t one! Maybe we are back to that very pesky notion that everyone is an individual. Every pregnancy and baby is different. Recommendations should be made based on the health of the mother and baby in question. And the decision about what is best should then be made by the mother.
Myth 6: Your baby will need formula or expressed colostrum.
If you are well and your baby is well there is no reason to believe that your baby will require artificial feeding. Baby should be put to the breast as soon as they are born. The first BSL test for bub (if you have consented to testing – yes you can decline) should take place AFTER the first full breastfeed. Obviously, if bub is having issues you might reassess this, but if your BSLs have been steady there is no reason to suspect that bub’s won’t be as well.
GD testing kit. Use it frequently to monitor what foods effect you and how. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I hope that this has answered some questions about the more common myths around GD. I plan to put together full posts on each of these myths so that we can explore them in more depth and cover more of the issues associated with each point.
I would really value any feedback that you have on your own journey with GD, any myths that I missed or how you've busted these myths yourself.