Gestational Diabetes: A Letter to My Younger, Expectant Self

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It’s been nearly a decade since my type 2 diabetes diagnosis and more than two decades since being diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Thinking back, what would I tell my younger self about how to take care of myself after childbirth?

Get some rest

Sleep when the baby sleeps. Go ahead and nap during the day because you’re going to be up at night. A lot.

When a friend or family asks what they can do to help. Don’t be shy. Ask them to bring some prepared food, or do a load of laundry, or watch the baby for an hour. Accept the help and get some rest.

Sleep deprivation is not heroic. Being sleep deprived only adds to the stress you are experiencing. In the short run it makes you grumpy and irritable. In the long term it puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.

Add some physical activity to your daily routine

Take the baby out for a walk, even if it’s just around the block. The fresh air and sunshine will be good for your body and your mood.

Start slowly with some small activity. Remember your body is in recovery. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Keep moving and you will heal from your delivery more quickly.

Keep the healthy habits going after delivery. They will cut your long term risk of developing health problems later like heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Pay attention to what you’re eating

When you find yourself eating saltines for lunch...again...spread some peanut butter on or crack open a can of tuna to go with. You need the protein and calories.

Order in or have a friend or family member prep some food. Pack the food in single servings so all you have to do is heat it up and eat. Minimizing prep and clean up makes it easier to get the nutrition you need.

Your nutrition is as important as the baby’s. Your body needs to replenish its stores of calcium, iron, folate, and other essential vitamins and minerals. After all you are healing from one of the most dramatic changes your body will ever go through.

Be sure to go to your postpartum check ups

You need to make sure your body is healing as expected from the delivery and you’re not experiencing any complications or abnormalities.

Your postpartum check ups will include checking your vital signs, a pelvic exam, and at least one follow up blood glucose test. If you get to your 12-week postpartum check and haven’t done a postpartum blood glucose test, bring it up with your healthcare provider. Tell them you want/need to schedule one.

Going forward get checked for prediabetes and diabetes regularly

A common assumption is that once you deliver the baby diabetes will go away. Not so much.

Make sure your primary care professionals know that you’ve had gestational diabetes, how long ago, and how many times. Let them know that you want/need to be screened for diabetes regularly.

According to the CDC, half of the women who experience gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes down the road. The CDC recommends getting checked for diabetes regularly, every one-to-three years.

Having a baby changes your life forever in unimaginable and joyous ways. It can also change your state of health—forever. Pay careful attention to your own postpartum health and you’ll be in a much better position to enjoy a long, healthful life with your family, whether or not you develop type 2 diabetes.