One thing that I have been adamant about during my pregnancy is healthy eating. I've been steadfast in my efforts to eliminate (as much as possible) preservatives, artificial dyes and other additives from my diet. And it hasn't been easy, let me tell you. Paying close attention to nutrition labels has really brought to light the amount of chemical crap we regularly consume. It's in everything. Even my expensive "natural" prenatal vitamin contains Red #40 - a dye that has a suspected link to behavioral and developmental problems in children - and even cancer.
I know it's not possible to live in a bubble, so I've resolved to just do the best that I can. Other than my prenatal vitamin (that has that $@*! red dye poison as an ingredient), nothing passes my lips that isn't completely natural. We purchase all organic fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs and dairy as much as possible. We scrutinize ingredient labels. I've reduced my sugar consumption and drink at least three liters of water a day to keep my body well hydrated (and help minimize uterine irritability). And, of course, I don't drink any alcohol. Except that I can't exercise due to my bed rest status, I'm healthier now than I've been in ages. So, I was quite shocked when I failed my glucose screening (the test for gestational diabetes)...
The screening test entails fasting, drinking a highly-concentrated sugar solution, and then drawing blood levels one hour later to measure how efficiently your body processes sugar. I've heard that the screening can make you feel really sick, so I was surprised when I felt fine after the test. In fact, I was so thirsty from fasting, I actually enjoyed the Kool-Aid-like sugar drink that I was given (that was, nonetheless colored with red dye)!
After panicking just a little about my positive result, I was relieved to learn that only about a third of women who test positive on the glucose screen actually have gestational diabetes. All the same, I was not thrilled about having to do the more extensive, three-hour glucose tolerance test that would provide more accurate results and encompassed taking blood every hour.
The three-hour test did make me sick. The first hour after drinking the sugar solution, I felt nauseous and faint. I took it as a possible sign that the results would come back positive again. I wasn't that upset at the prospect of having to deal with more daily needle sticks to manage gestational diabetes (in addition to the hormone shot I get every day in my now well-bruised and tender derriere). I was more concerned about the possible implications for my babies. In babies, gestational diabetes can cause:
- Macrosomia (baby is bigger than normal and may need to be delivered via cesarean section).
- Hypoglycemia (baby's blood sugar is too low).
- Jaundice (a condition that makes a newborn's skin and the white part of the eyes look yellow. It's caused by an overproduction of bilirubin in the baby's blood (hyperbilirubinemia). Bilirubin is a substance that is made when the body breaks down old red blood cells.
- Respiratory Distress Syndrome (baby has trouble breathing and might need oxygen or other help breathing after birth).
- Low calcium and magnesium levels in the baby's blood
I've since learned that gestational diabetes isn't caused by diet (although diet certainly effects it), but by the hormones produced by the placenta that can have a blocking effect on insulin. Women pregnant with twins are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.
After a few stressful days waiting for the results, to my huge relief, my glucose tolerance test came back negative. Since I've decided to celebrate every milestone and every bit of good news of this pregnancy, I decided a cookie was in order. Organic, of course. :-)