I've had a problem with hypoglycemia all my life - that's low blood sugar, due to my body's overreaction and overproduction of insulin after I consume sugars. At least, that's how I've diagnosed myself, since no doctor seems interested in testing me. I know I have a problem with sugar because if I eat too much sugar (or simple carbohydrate) without protein and fat, I crash about two hours later. And when I crash, it's very, very bad. All my symptoms are in-line with those of low blood-sugar. It's still a serious problem that has to be managed, but it's not due to pregnancy, and it's not diabetes. The glucose tolerance test just seemed to confirm my self-diagnosis.
So here's how it works. You fast for eight hours. Then you have a blood draw. Then you drink a huge, super-sugary drink. Then you have your blood drawn at one, two, and three hours after consuming the glucose. If two or more of your blood-sugar levels are above a certain threshold, then you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
My levels were:
- fasting: 68 (normal is less than 100)
- one hour: 193 (normal is less than 180)
- two hour: 175 (normal is less than 155)
- three hours: 50 (normal is less than 140)
Did you catch that last level? 50! That is why I would never, ever, eat pancakes for breakfast, or even fruit and toast, or even cereal with whole milk, or even a bagel with cream cheese. Even those smaller amounts of sugar without enough protein and fat will cause me to crash. I'm better off not eating. A blood glucose of 60 or less is considered hypoglycemic, and at 50, I was technically in insulin shock, which can be very dangerous. Not one person I've spoken with yet seems to care about that last level, which makes me crazy. This is the first time I've been unhappy with my ob-gyn for just following the rules. But apparently, the way it works is that he just orders the test and, based on the black and white results, refers me to a diabetes center.
Now, I didn't expect my earlier readings to be so high as to fail the test, and that might be a part of what I call my existing hypoglycemia, or it might be due to pregnancy. I did have one bad experience about a month ago - I ate a McFlurry, which is more sugar than I'd normally consume at once. But I had just eaten a huge hamburger and felt like I could handle it. I never did crash, but I had a different reaction: I got the sweats and a rapid heartbeat. Adam told me that it sounded like too much sugar. I don't know - I've never had that feeling before. So indeed, I might be having more trouble getting the insulin process started during pregnancy, and maybe I do have gestational diabetes on top of my existing condition. I'd like to find out more once my body is back to normal. There is also something called "occult diabetes," where the body is extremely slow to react to blood sugar, and then overreacts. That sounds like me, but the crash is not supposed to happen until about five hours after consumption of the sugar to be a candidate for that condition. I've noticed that, during this pregnancy, my crash is taking longer than usual. I would have expected the low level at two hours, not three, but three is still early for occult diabetes. Still, I might have some variation of that. And the fluctuation in my levels is not a good thing, one way or another.
But the point of all this is that I already know how to manage my condition. My dad has the exact same problem and he taught me how to avoid sugars without protein, especially in the morning. I've experimented with this for years. I've found that I do need some carbs in the morning - just a small amount, and always with protein. I've found that nuts don't balance out the carbs as well as meat, so a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be a risky meal unless I've eaten a lot of good protein earlier in the day. I've found that there is almost no difference in effects on me between simple and complex carbohydrates so I rarely distinguish between them. I also need to eat more often than most people, and when I feel a certain kind of urgent hunger, I know I have to eat immediately, and I know that I have to eat a certain kind of thing, to avoid the crash. But I also know that I can eat desserts at night, as long as I've eaten well during the day. I know a lot of things. I know what works for me. And I'm not going to go on some standard diabetic diet (which probably contains more carbs than I eat anyway because complex carbs are supposed to be good!) unless someone can give me a compelling reason to do so. I'm not giving up my occasional ice cream after dinner in exchange for disgusting whole grain bread for breakfast which I know will make me sick.
So now I have to go to some kind of educational class, which I dread. If it is some standard thing about gestational diabetes, it will probably be a complete waste of my time, but maybe there will be someone with a brain who will actually talk to me about my particular case. And I'm going to have to monitor my glucose levels. That I won't mind doing. After I failed the one-hour test earlier this month, my father-in-law lent me a finger-prick kit to use for a week and I tested every m0rning, and after a few meals. It was fun to actually know my levels. (I was always in the 70's or 80's in the morning, and under 110 after meals. No signs of elevated levels at all, because, dammit, I was eating properly, not drinking sugar-water!)
And I'm not clear on what the risks of gestational diabetes are for me or my babies, except that it might cause them to be bigger. If that's the only downside, then maybe I should just start eating more chocolate anyway.