My parents have high-blood pressure (with medication for control), so I’ve always thought it a possibility for me to experience pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. But no…. the Universe always finds its way to surprise me.
I never had sweet tooth before my pregnancy. I didn’t have any cravings or aversions at all during the pregnancy (ok, maybe I was thinking a lot about mint chocolate chip ice-cream but i wouldn’t categorise that level of desire as a craving). However once I hit the 3rd trimester, something strange happened – I kept wanting to eat sweet stuff. Thinking that pregnancy is the only time in my life when it’s justified to put on weight, I stuffed my face with chocolates, ice-cream, cupcakes etc. I now know why the condition is renowned as the silent killer – there were no overt signs that I had developed gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). I was simply diagnosed one day at my gynae’s clinic after the glucose test. And then and there it was it – i had gestational diabetes and my fate was sealed. -_-
In a nutshell, gestational diabetes refers to high levels of blood glucose (sugar) during pregnancy, and it occurs when the body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Read about how it affects the baby here (or view the video here):
True enough, when Dave was born, he had very low blood sugar levels and the paediatrician disallowed me from exclusive breastfeeding for the first 2 days, mainly because Dave simply couldn’t wait for my body to produce enough breast milk. They had to feed him formula milk first (in fact, a type of formula specially meant for babies with low blood sugar) so that his levels can be raised quickly before other complications step in.
FOOD DIARY & BLOOD TESTS
After the diagnosis, I had to find a notebook to note down all the food I eat/drink every day, and do 7 blood tests a day, once a week. The thought of pricking myself with a needle was scary, but the truth is, the pricking didn’t hurt! PHEW! Here’s how it works:
Why 7 times a day for that particular day of testing? I had to do a test:
And each time I was supposed to get blood test levels below 7.2. For the first 2 weeks (when I was in denial), I was getting some results above 8.0! Specifically, I remember that the wanton noodle soup sold at the coffee shop near my house hit a 8.2 (gasp!). I was advised to eat noodle soup as there’s usually lower salt and sugar content…but that stall was a killer. Can you imagine the levels for the dry version then? -_-|||
I’m not a good patient for sure. As i was diagnosed with borderline gestational diabetes, I didn’t think much of my condition. I kept wondering to myself – how could I have gestational diabetes??! ….Yes, granted that older mums tend to get this condition…. but I didn’t even put on much weight during the 2 trimesters (another factor for getting GDM)! It was mostly a lot of ‘Why me?’ mentality…. So while I held off eating the sinful stuff like chocolates and ice cream etc, I continued eating rice, noodles and all kinds of fried and oily stuff (did you know that even sweet and sour pork is a no-no?).
2 weeks later at my next appointment, Dr Fong was appalled at my blood test results and only after a stern warning that time round did I realise that I was in denial and was doing real harm to the baby (actually according to Dr Fong, it’s not the sugar level spike that is harmful, it’s when the sugar levels crash that is harmful to the baby). I started to take the condition seriously and read up on it. My pregnancy diet headed for another direction, one which caused me to shed a couple of kilograms (while the baby was piling on weight). Every time that I weighed myself at the clinic, I realised to the gynae’s (and my) horror that I had shed 1 kg, while the baby had gained more weight (which meant that I was losing more than 1 kg per week!)
Being willing to diet is something that I only do out of desperation. For eg. for an upcoming album photo-shoot, or video performance etc…and even then, I’d never tried such an extreme measure of dieting (which explains why I looked pudgy in most photos and videos -_-). But this, this time round, it concerns another life, and I had to be accountable not just to him, but also to my husband…
So recipes. I abstained off white rice and noodles; and when I really had to eat rice, I eat basmati rice or brown rice which has a lower GI (glycemic index) – a lower GI is good for the body because the sugar breaks down slower and doesn’t give the body the ‘sugar crash’.
The GDM actually is a blessing in disguise, because it made me rethink the way I eat, and made me explore food that I usually won’t eat (like lo-fat yogurt/greek yogurt), and sort of reset my palette so when I eat food cooked outside nowadays, i actually feel that those food are simply too sweet AND salty.
So for the rest of the pregnancy, it was a series of sandwiches that consisted of 100% wholemeal bread + (insert meat) slapped with salad + cheddar cheese for lunch/dinner. Sometimes i tried out more exotic cooking like apple-cinnamon pork chop; cornflakes chicken chop, etc. But after some research, I realise 2 recipes that brought me a lot of joy:
- Homemade chicken curry – Yes! It’s totally possible to have healthy curry bought over the shelves, but it has to be by the brand A1 (picture here). I only added chicken, the A1 curry sauce, some assam, some curry leaves (no milk no sugar), and it was really delicious. Slap on some wholemeal bread, and you have a wholesome and appetising meal. Blood test measure – 5.9.
- Low-fat yogurt (with apple cubes & raspberry) (or just apple cubes) – When I feel hungry shortly after lunch, I usually indulge in this healthy but super delicious snack. And it measures only 5.3.
The interesting thing is, I felt that I was eating way more frequently than before I went on the diet. It seemed like I kept eating all the time!
And because the craving for sweet stuff didn’t go away despite the GDM, I had to manage it… by coming up with my own creation! Because of GDM, i ventured into my first baking (if you don’t count the home economics lessons in school):
Oat Raisin Cookie – this was the first recipe i tried out online, and it was SO GOOD….the best part was, the blood test measured 6.7.
Sugar Free Banana Bread – this was SO SO GOOD too; blood test measured 6.8
Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins – I forgot how much this measured on the blood test, but it was within the acceptable range; recommended if you like oats.
If you are into shakes/smoothies, here are 10 recipes you can try.
Specifically, for me, the Strawberry Orange Smoothie yielded only 5.8!
The most highly recommended from me would be the Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie (sounds very sinful!) – I tweaked the recipe a little: I skipped the Stevia because the ingredients are sweet enough; and I skipped the protein powder too. This is a can-die recipe, and i drank it quite frequently during the last trimester to cope with my craving. But the blood tests measured only 5.4. However, please use unsweetened peanut butter, or reduced fat type like this:
And last but not least, my favourite has to be this Lemon Pound Cake. The only thing I tweaked for the recipe was to use 1 1/2 cup brown sugar instead of 2 cups sugar… (I counted the icing out, of course). The husband was actually wolfing it down much more eagerly than me.
Anyway, gestational diabetes generally goes away after the placenta has been delivered, but women with GDM have a 5-7 times higher chance of developing overt (Type II) diabetes later in life. That means watching over one’s diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will be even more important for people like us! Honestly, I don’t know how diabetics eat outside… it’s just a horrible experience for a mere few weeks. Every corner I turn, i see cakes, food with high carb and sugar; even food sold at food courts are high in sugar content (after discounting all the fried food). Interestingly, I began to appreciate the natural taste of food (i.e. low sugar/no sugar) during this period. It’s almost like my taste buds got ‘reset’, because after delivery, everything i taste seems TOO sweet.
Anyway, here is a conversion table I found online. Literally some food for thought: