Keeping Healthy with Diabetes while Pregnant

Kelsey Bonilla Health Guide
  • Pregnancy Tracker: 3.5 weeks postpartum

    Size of the Baby: 9 pounds

    Biggest Obstacle: Getting everything done!


    For nearly an entire year, I had one major focus: keeping my blood sugars in a normal range so that the baby and I remained as healthy as possible. Besides careful blood glucose monitoring, I also maintained a low carbohydrate diet and exercised regularly. Now that the pregnancy is nearly a month behind me, I can accurately assess how my hard work paid off.


    During the pregnancy my A1c results were 5.4% and 5.0%. Each week I worked with my Certified Diabetes Educators to adjust my insulin ratios in order to achieve the blood glucose control we wanted. On a regular basis, I had ultrasounds to monitor the baby's size. Until the 36th week, baby Sienna was right on track growth-wise. However, suddenly her stomach measured disproportionately large as we entered the last month of pregnancy. My doctor was surprised by this because of how tight my blood sugar control had been. It turned out that his gut instinct was right because Sienna was born at a healthy, normal size. She weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces at birth which is only 2 ounces more than I was!

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    My diet during pregnancy was quite healthy. I'd learned from several sources that my insulin needs would double or even triple during pregnancy. Hormones released during the second and third trimester cause intense insulin resistance causing diabetics to need much more insulin to cover the same amount of carbohydrates. I started thinking; wouldn't I need less insulin if I ate less carbs?


    Sure enough, by eating a lower carbohydrate diet, I was able to keep my insulin needs relatively low. At the height of my insulin resistance, on Thanksgiving Day, I delivered 60 units of insulin which was just about double my pre-pregnancy total daily dose. For the most part, I gave myself about 50 units of insulin per day during the third trimester. I believe that by not letting my insulin levels rise very much it helped ensure that Sienna did not grow too large.


    Besides diet and blood glucose control, the most important factor to my pregnancy health was exercise. I continued to walk several times per week and added swimming to my workout routine. Swimming is the best total body workout! The first benefit I noticed was increased lung capacity. When I started swimming in late spring, I had to breathe every two strokes when swimming freestyle. Soon, I could hold my breath much longer and by the time I delivered, I was often breathing after six strokes!


    Improved lung capacity served me well during labor. My nurse actually encouraged me to push four times per contraction because my breathing was holding up so well! Also, during labor I visualized myself in the pool and used my swimming breathing pattern to get through the contractions.


    Perhaps the most tangible evidence of my pregnancy health (and the most vain aspect) can be seen in my weight gain and loss. Before conceiving, my weight was 145 pounds. At Sienna's delivery, I weighed 164 pounds; a moderate 19 pound weight gain. However, my entire lower body was quite swollen for several days. I thought the swelling would never subside!


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    Finally, after a little over a week, I noticed my legs were, well, skinny! We don't own a scale, so at a visit to my mom's apartment, I stepped on her scale. Less than two weeks postpartum, I weighed 137 pounds! Apparently, all the swimming and healthy eating had transformed my body, I just couldn't tell because of all the swelling!


    I know it's a little sickening to report that I lost all of my baby weight, plus some, so quickly. When I returned the maternity clothes to my friend, she was pretty surprised I didn't need them anymore.


    I wanted to report all of these aspects of my pregnancy to demonstrate how diabetes can actually help someone to have a healthier, happier, more rewarding pregnancy. With the technology and knowledge available to diabetics today, plus a big dose of determination, we have all the tools we need to have healthy babies and healthy mothers with diabetes.


Published On: February 04, 2008