Michelle Gregory - Gestational Diabetes
Aside from normal bouts of morning sickness, fatigue and/or increased appetite, most expectant mothers experience pregnancies free of complications. Unfortunately, one complication that seems to be increasing in the United States is gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). In the United States alone, GDM is diagnosed in nearly 4 percent of all pregnancies each year — about 135,000 cases. The disease requires proper medical attention, increased doctor visits, and a disciplined approach to diet and exercise.
Michelle Gregory is all too familiar with GDM. She was diagnosed with the disease during both of her pregnancies. While she and her husband were shocked and frightened by the diagnosis, other obstacles they had to first overcome made the diagnosis much easier to deal with.
As a young woman, Michelle was diagnosed with a rare medical condition known as unicornuate uterus. Women suffering from this condition have a malformed uterus and a greater risk of premature delivery. Because of her condition, she and her husband began trying to conceive right after they were married. Nearly 12 years later and after rounds of fertility treatments, they heard the words they had been waiting to hear: “You’re pregnant.” Extremely excited about the news, they were eager to begin planning for parenthood, but the road to get there turned out to be bumpy.
Due to Michelle’s unicornuate condition, her physician placed her on bed rest for the entire length of her pregnancy. Michelle, who is generally very active, found the nine months of bed rest extremely difficult. Although beneficial for the baby, the new sedentary lifestyle mixed with what Michelle calls a “license to eat” made exercise non existent and her diet less than ideal. In her 28th week of pregnancy, Michelle discovered she would have to drastically change her dietary habits.
Michelle went in for the normal diabetes test that most health care providers perform between the weeks 25 and 28 of pregnancy. She was given a sugary solution to drink and blood samples were drawn an hour after she finished the “flat soda-like” beverage. Her test results came back to show her blood sugar (glucose) levels were elevated. Therefore, Michelle was given a glucose tolerance test, a three hour test involving three separate blood draws. Again, the results showed she had a high level of blood glucose. While the news was shocking, she and her husband were determined to have a successful, healthy pregnancy.
“It wasn’t about what I wanted anymore; it was about the baby’s health. Nothing else mattered” Michelle says.
Despite the hurdles, Michelle went on to have a very successful pregnancy and delivered a healthy baby boy named Johnathan. Only 16 months later, Michelle and her husband welcomed their second son, Joseph. Just like her first pregnancy, Michelle was diagnosed with GDM. However, during this pregnancy Michelle was seen by Dr. Ellen Mozurkewich at the U-M's High Risk Obstetrics and Gestational Diabetes Clinic.
“Dr. Mozurkewich was excellent! I felt stress free under her supervision. Although I received good care during my first pregnancy, it was not as good as the U-M," Michelle says. "With their advanced medical treatment, they see a lot of high risk pregnancies, so I knew I was in good hands. Plus, I was not placed on bed rest for my second pregnancy, news I was thrilled to hear.”
Michelle was followed by a dietitian and took part in the University of Michigan’s Gestational Diabetes Class that taught her the ins and outs of the disease.
“They gave me the specific amount of carbohydrates to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I followed this and got creative about the foods I prepared. I would eat sugar free pudding or cottage cheese with fruit. Even when I would get into a food rut occasionally my dietitian was there to give me more ideas . Overall, I learned how to eat right and I still try to follow the diet.”
When asked if her husband went along with the diet during her pregnancy, Michelle quickly remarked, “He had no choice since I was buying and preparing the foods, but he was a good sport with it and went along with everything.”
Michelle also received the book Nutrition in the Fastlane, which she recommends to women who are diagnosed with GDM. The book is a fast food dining guide with nutritional information (calories, trans fat, carbohydrates) for all foods from 58 popular restaurants. It allowed her to still eat out, but to choose nutritious options.
Michelle visited her physician once a week and monitored her own sugar levels at home using a glucometer. She reports her blood sugar remained in good range for the entire pregnancy. While Michelle was able to control her diabetes with diet, some women (approximately 15 percent diagnosed with GDM) will need to take insulin injections.
After all the obstacles, Michelle and her husband finally have the family they have always dreamed of having. Michelle’s positive attitude and disciplined approach to her health allowed her to successfully manage the disease. Even though her pregnancies were demanding at times, the bundles of joy were well worth it.