Crystal D’Agostino, a Senior Program Coordinator at the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, was diagnosed with gestational diabetes about five months into her first pregnancy. This diagnosis was frustrating for Crystal, who was familiar with the disease through her work at the NKFM and had put a lot of effort into trying to avoid this diagnosis.
Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes does not mean that a person had diabetes prior to becoming pregnant or that she will have it after giving birth. According to the CDC, shortly after pregnancy, 5% to 10% of women with gestational diabetes continue to have high blood glucose levels and are diagnosed as having diabetes, usually type 2. It is important, however, to keep blood glucose levels normal. Treatment of gestational diabetes requires special meal plans, physical activity and, in some cases, daily blood glucose testing and insulin injections.
A major component of diabetes management is making healthy food choices. Upon learning of her gestational diabetes, Crystal immediately began a diet to manage her blood glucose levels. Changing her eating habits was difficult. She recalls that it was hard to eat three meals and three snacks every day, especially right before bed. With gestational diabetes, it was important for her to be more aware of her fat gram intake, increase protein consumption, and limit carbohydrates.
While Crystal was able to manage her gestational diabetes for a few months with a restricted diet and increased exercise, she soon learned that she needed insulin injections. For the last two months of her pregnancy, Crystal was required to take insulin injections every night before bed. Due to an allergic reaction, she frequently had to work around welts. She admits that these last few months were hard, even with the support of her husband, who administered the insulin.
“I hated having to go through that and repeatedly getting stuck by a needle from the insulin and through finger pricks,” says Crystal.
After having a healthy baby girl, Crystal was determined not to have gestational diabetes in her future pregnancies. She continued the “diabetic diet,” getting down to five pounds under her pre-pregnancy weight. At this point however, her weight loss plateaued and she decided to enroll in the NKFM’s Diabetes Prevention Program.
The Diabetes Prevention Program is a 16-week program led by a trained lifestyle coach in a classroom setting, and works to help those at high risk for type 2 diabetes learn how to maintain healthy lifestyles through eating healthier, increasing physical activity, and losing weight. These changes all work to reduce a person’s chances of developing the disease. The program provides tips on fat gram counting and asks participants to commit to getting 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Since Crystal experienced gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, she was at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
“The physical activity was something that I struggled with, being a full-time working mom with a toddler,” explains Crystal, “but once I moved past the mom guilt and figured out ways to have my daughter and I still spend time together while I worked out, things seemed to fall into place.”
Crystal says that the Diabetes Prevention Program changed her perspective on the idea of what physical activity means.
“I had to change my idea of what physical activity was for me,” says Crystal. “Before, I mostly thought of physical activity as running and taking classes, but as a new mom, it was a struggle to find time to do these things on my own. This program taught me to redefine physical activity.”
By the end of the program Crystal learned that she was pregnant with her second child. She adjusted her diet for the baby and remained active through prenatal yoga and walking. When it came time to be tested for gestational diabetes, she was shocked and excited to learn that she did not have it again, especially considering her the preexisting issues in her family.
Crystal credits the Diabetes Prevention Program for her good news. She says that the program not only provided her with tips for healthy living, but also introduced her to other people who all had the same goals and could help each other along the way.
“It was nice to be able to know that that was something you could always come back to,” says Crystal.
Her advice for anyone who has recently been diagnosed with gestational diabetes is to find a dietician and to ask lots of questions. She says that you have to be open to learning and finding someone that has been through gestational diabetes. It is always helpful to talk to someone who understands.
Crystal demonstrates how getting educated, making healthy lifestyle choices, and finding a support system can help you to control your health.
Changing your lifestyle can be hard, but it’s worth it. For more information about the NKFM's Diabetes Prevention Program or to see if you qualify, contact the NKFM at [email protected] or call 800-482-1455.