Three points. Three points between what seems to be an otherwise healthy and uneventful pregnancy and the mess I'm facing now.
I'm beyond frustrated. Several weeks ago I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. But I think it's bunk (or as my doctor told the diabetes nurse at my clinic who then told me: I'm "having difficulty coming to terms with my diagnosis").
First, I was just surprised I found myself in such a rare category. According to the American Diabetes Association, GD affects just 4% of all pregnant women. And according to the Mayo Clinic white women, "for reasons that aren't clear," [kind of a sketchy quote, I realize] are less likely to develop GD than African American, Latina, Asian, or Native American women.
So, it's a relatively uncommon condition (96% of pregnant women won't have GD). And, if I'm doing my math right (no guarantees), a woman with a Scandinavian heritage such as myself could consider herself as having less than a 4% chance of developing GD.
There are other "risk factors," of course. Obesity is one (I'm a bit plump, but not obese), having high blood pressure (nope, mine's great), being older than 25 (okay, I'll cop to this one), and having high blood sugar (again, nope) all tend to be factors.
Essentially, this came out of left field for me and my mind is still swirling with it all.
And truthfully and sincerely, I'm not certain the diagnosis itself was appropriate. Here's why:
The basic [very general] idea behind GD is that you've begun to have difficulty processing/maintaining healthy levels of glucose/sugar in your blood; these high glucose levels end up making their way to your baby. On this diet of extra sugar, a baby may grow larger than your body was meant to birth (which varies by each and every woman, of course. Many women deliver 11+ lbs fine and dandy). A "too big" baby is at heightened risk of becoming malpositioned during birth (and thus possibly of getting stuck).
But here are my initial issues with my diagnosis:
First~ my blood sugar levels (which I've now been checking 6x daily for going on a month) are all excellent. Every day. Excellent.
Second~ my hemoglobin A1C test (which shows my average sugar levels over the past 6-12 weeks) was fantastic (it was 4.9).
Third~ the reason I've been diagnosed is due to just 3 little points.
1 hour--170 (normal)
2 hour--157 (abnormal. They wanted between 70-154)
3 hour--147 (abnormal. They wanted between 70-140).
For a diagnosis of GD the 3-hour test requires two abnormal/high readings. One abnormal reading is considered within normal parameters. So let's toss that final draw out (why the last one? Because why not.). Now let's take a peek at the other abnormal number, taken two hours after I'd ingested that ungodly high amount of glucose. My body took care of it except for 3 points. 3 points too high.
Three points. Not all that alarming. Why isn't it alarming? Because your body processes glucose at different rates throughout the day depending on what the heck it is you're doing. If you're walking or exercising or stretching it draws more glucose from the blood to feed your muscles than if you're sitting around on your rump reading. And what was I doing in the waiting room at the lab? I was waiting. On my rump. Reading. I wasn't even stretching my arms or walking to the bathroom. Just sitting. Statuesque. After the results came back I asked the doctor whether that third draw could have been lower by three points or more if I'd only walked around the lobby a little bit. She admitted that it very well may have been lower if I'd stretched my legs, yes. But then she said that that was irrelevant. Because I hadn't stretched my legs. And thus the test shows what it shows and that's that. Per her clinic's practice I have GD. End of discussion.
Except that it's not the end. Suddenly there's so much more to talk about and decide!
What does a diagnosis like this mean? First off, it means that I've been asked to "manage" my blood sugar levels. A woman with GD is supposed to keep her fasting numbers between late 70s-early 80s and her post-meal numbers are supposed to be <120 two hours after a meal. That's compared to the <140 that non-diabetic mothers should maintain as their normal. Why the difference between normal population and a woman with GD? My doctor said that it's because the normal population are trying to stay healthy for 20 years in the future. That's vs. a woman with GD who is growing a baby right now, and thus any higher blood sugar could directly impact the fetus today.
Okay. Fine. Stricter rules for a mother with GD. Except... what if I hadn't been diagnosed with GD? If that second glucose test's third draw had been 3 points lower because I'd dropped my book on the floor and had had to bend down and pick it up? Well then, in that case, the normal non-diabetic numbers would be just find and dandy for me during my pregnancy. A blood sugar level up to 140 after two hours of a meal wouldn't hurt the baby at all if only I hadn't been diagnosed with GD.
But whatever. So I'm supposed to keep my blood sugar super low. Lower than normal. Okay. So I start to use the glucose meter 6x a day (fasting/pre-breakfast, post-breakfast, pre-lunch, post-lunch, pre-dinner, post-dinner). And what do my numbers show? Fasting and pre-meal numbers in the 70s and low 80s. 2 hour post-meal numbers <120. Interesting... So there's nothing to worry about, right? My numbers are sublime?
Wrong. Worry! Worry!
I've been instructed that I must now have weekly (weekly!) "non-stress" tests at the hospital to ensure the baby is doing well. I'm also supposed to go in for several ultrasounds to try and gage the baby's weight (though, as the doctor admits, ultrasounds can be off by 1 lb or more...) and if I'm found to be growing a baby over the 75th percentile in weight (anticipated to be about 8 lbs at term) I will be pressured to induce labor early. If I require medication to maintain my blood sugar levels they'd induce at 38 weeks but if I'm able to maintain without medication they'll "allow" me to go till 40 weeks. And, at the shocked look on my face, my doctor said that she'd even consider allowing me to go to 41 weeks.
Non-stress tests. Ultrasounds. Scheduled induction. If I refuse the interventions, refuse even one of them? Then I'll be transferred to High Risk OB/perinatology at the hospital and be required to have the remainder of my prenatal care and my delivery with them.
I don't want a surgeon at my birth. I don't want to spend my time and money (and lose my earned time off at work, which is perilously low as it is) to go in for weekly "non-stress" tests (not stressful for the baby, perhaps! But what about the mama?!) in addition to my normal prenatal appointments. I don't want to give ultrasounds (which are perhaps their best imaging tool but nevertheless sorely lacking when it comes to deciding whether a baby is "too big" for a woman to birth) the power between "allowing" me to continue to nurture my baby in the womb or being "required" to evict it early.
I am not a happy camper. And I have some decisions to make. Quickly.