What I Thought Was Gestational Diabetes Was Actually Type 2 Diabetes
I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes After Pregnancy. It’s the news I never wanted but got anyways. “You failed your glucose test. You have Type 2 Diabetes,” my ob-gyn said to me just two months after giving birth to my son Orion. For those of you that didn’t know already, I had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes just 14 weeks into my pregnancy. It’s not completely unheard of, but most women don’t show signs of it until 22-24 weeks.
At the time I remember being so frustrated and lost. Why was I diagnosed so early? Did I already have diabetes before I got pregnant and just not know? Well, I have no way of knowing with 100% certainty, but I can bet that I had type 2 diabetes already and just didn’t know it.
The Signs Had Been There For Years
I was relatively young and had doctors that thought nothing was wrong with me other than “needing to lose weight”. However, once I got pregnant, I realized how much they put your health under a microscope. When a baby is suddenly involved, you’re getting poked and prodded regularly to ensure everything is okay. Because of this, I know my son Orion was the blessing I always needed. Getting pregnant with him brought to light the glaring health problems that were lurking under the surface just waiting to be discovered.
For several years I had struggled with stubborn visceral fat around my midsection. No matter how much I exercised it just wouldn’t budge. People would ask me if I was pregnant (I wasn’t) and it was always mortifying. I also had horrible hormonal acne breakouts around my jawline that were super painful and wouldn’t go away despite frequent facials, laser treatments, and ten-step skincare routines with medical-grade products. Both of these issues were a sign that something was off internally. But I only sought external solutions.
I Finally Had Answers
Once I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes it was like a light bulb had finally been turned on and even more so once I realized I actually had type 2 diabetes. Now that I’ve been living with diabetes for over 2 years now I can see the difference in my skin. It’s never been clearer! The visceral fat? Well, I’m still working on that. It’s still pretty stubborn, I think pregnancy didn’t help out there either haha! But as long as I work on managing my blood sugars and exercising regularly I know it will get better.
Looking back on how my health had been for years prior to getting pregnant with Orion, I would almost guess that I was diabetic if not at least prediabetic for over 10 years. That’s a long time not to know you have a significant health problem. I wasn’t the best about regular doctor visits, checkups, or anything of that nature. Anytime I came to a doctor with a health concern it was always just “Eat less, exercise more.” Does that sound familiar to you? I wish at least one of my doctors would have thought to run blood work. But I was always so easily dismissed.
I’m not saying all doctors don’t care mind you. My current PCP is absolutely amazing and I’m so happy I found her to help me with this next phase of my life. She put me on Metformin initially after my diagnosis but worked with me to get my a1c down to a manageable level. After a few months, my a1c was below a prediabetic level. In less than 6 months I was able to go off medication for my diabetes completely thanks to a diabetic-friendly diet and daily exercise.
Did I Really Have Type 2 Diabetes?
I was doing great for a while and even found myself questioning my initial diagnosis. Maybe it was a missed diagnosis because it had been so soon after giving birth? Sadly, that’s not the case. I started checking my blood sugars again after giving myself a little bit too much freedom with what I ate and discovered how high they were getting again. I was most certainly a type 2 diabetic.
When I was first diagnosed with gestational diabetes I was so misinformed about what diabetes really is and how people end up with it. I found myself cursing my careless foodie persona. Villainizing food, cheat day meals, and overly sweet foods. I was convinced food gave me my diabetes. But as I learned more, I realized it wasn’t the food, it was my body. Did eating overindulgent meals help? Probably not. But sugar does not directly cause diabetes. Diabetes is when your pancreas can no longer process glucose, creating insulin resistance.
I’m thankful I took the time to really learn more about diabetes so I could come to peace with the idea that this is just my life now. Whether I like it or not, I’m a type 2 diabetic. Thanks to my hard work and the help of my Primary Care Provider I have been able to manage this disease without needing medication for over a year now. My plan is to keep it that way.
If You Struggle With Diabetes You’re Not Alone
Sharing my struggles with type 2 and gestational diabetes is not to seek pity but to let others know who may be experiencing something similar that you’re not alone. Being diagnosed with any type of life-altering disease can feel very isolating. Many times I felt as if maybe no one understood what my life is like. But I found that by sharing my story so many people have reached out to me to share words of encouragement or to simply thank me for making them not feel alone in their journey. People with diabetes can experience a lot of judgment from those that don’t understand the disease and it’s so sad and frustrating. Even if you don’t have diabetes I hope reading my story helps give you some insight and empathy for others in your life that might have it.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes and are wondering what’s worked best for me to manage my blood sugars I have some tips to share below.
What Hasn’t Worked For Me
- Sugary Drinks – I can’t drink soda, juice, or super sweet cocktails. Even “diet” sodas like Diet Coca-Cola actually spike my blood sugar. It might not contain real sugar but I’ve found sugar substitutes like aspartame doesn’t do me any favors.
- White Bread, White Rice, or Any Overly Processed Carbohydrates – People often think that the answer to managing blood sugars with diabetes is going Keto. That is not the case. You still need carbs, but eating ones that have whole grains take much longer for your body to metabolize so it doesn’t spike your blood sugar as easily.
- Lack of Sleep – I have to get at least 7 hours of sleep at night or my fasting blood sugars will be significantly higher. Sleep is important!
- Candy – I mean…I feel like this one should be a given, but I had to say it anyways. I loved all sorts of candy like sour patch kids, Reese’s pieces, and just chocolate in general. Thankfully brands like Lily’s make amazing sugar-free candy options for when I need a sweet treat.
What Has Worked For Me
- Exercise – Every single day. This is non-negotiable. Unless I’m sick or traveling I get up every morning and go on at least a 30-minute walk. I’m trying to work my way up to some light jogging as well but I’m not trying to rush myself. I also alternate between strength training and yoga 4-5 days a week.
- Incorporating Healthy Fats Into Most of My Meals – My favorites are avocado, peanut butter, and almond butter. I often find that if I include healthy fats along with a sweet treat like ice cream I’m still able to keep my blood sugat in check.
- Measuring All of My Carbs – Except veggies! If it’s pasta, bread, crackers, fruit, etc. I weigh it on a digital scale to make sure I stay within my target carbohydrate number for that meal or snack. Similar to how people count their macros but the only thing I track are carbohydrates.
- Eating Carbohydrates – Yes. I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it again. You should still eat healthy carbs when you have type 2 diabetes. I am not on a keto diet.
- Enjoying My Favorite Foods – I mentioned earlier that I villainized certain foods when I was first diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This was not a healthy relationship to have with food. I still love ice cream, french toast, and a refreshing cocktail. However, I have learned when to enjoy them and how to balance my blood sugars appropriately when I do. Taking a walk after eating helps SO much with this. It’s possible to still eat what you love if you are mindful about how it will need to be managed.
- Monitoring My Blood Sugar After Every Meal – Once I was cleared to go off the medication I was told I didn’t need to monitor my blood sugar anymore. Unfortunately, this is when I tend to go rogue with my eating and make choices that aren’t always the best for my blood sugar. By keeping tabs on it regularly it keeps me accountable because I know I don’t want to have a high reading.
Sharing this information with all of you is not meant to be medical advice. This is just what has worked best for me personally to stay off metformin and insulin. Personally, I hated how Metformin made me feel and I would rather prick my finger 4 times a day to monitor my blood sugars than deal with needing medication. But if any of these tips help you out then I’m so happy to share them with you!
Are you someone that has recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after pregnancy? I would love to hear your stories as well if you’re open to sharing them in the comments section. You can also email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a safe space and I hope you know I’m rooting for you!
Read More of My Journey Here: