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Gestational Diabetes

Guest post by Katie Munday

Trigger warnings: needles, hospital visits, blood mention, internalised fatphobia.

During pregnancy, everything about my body changed. My skin became soft, my hair became lustrous. My hormones levelled out and for once I felt calm. However, not all the changes were nice. I experienced breast discomfort, back and knee pain, a change in toilet habits, and many more irritating, uncomfortable, and painful experiences. The most difficult change for me was having gestational diabetes.

I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GD) four months into my pregnancy. I felt dreadful. I thought I had put myself and my baby in harm's way because of my unhealthy lifestyle. All the terrible feelings that I have had in the past due to being overweight and fat came to the surface. It took me a long time to acknowledge that there are no precursors for GD - it just happens for some pregnant people due to raised hormone levels blocking insulin use.

At the point of diagnosis, I was given a blood glucose monitor. The doctor seemed amused that I wanted to try it out for the first time with her at the hospital. I did it, despite this judgement, whilst taking lots of notes and left there feeling confident that I knew how to use the machine. The notes allowed me to share the information with my husband who I knew would be doing most of the blood testing for me for the first few weeks until I got confident to do it myself. Whilst at the hospital I was also shown a very patronising 'eat well' plate which is usually used with under 10s to explain healthy eating. Yes, I am aware that carbohydrates turn into sugar faster than other foods!

After this initial visit, I had to visit the hospital every two weeks to see the midwives there. My blood was taken regularly, which was something many of the midwives struggled with so I often went to the phlebotomist instead. The phlebotomist was on another level of the hospital and needed another lot of paperwork, questions and general chit-chat. I don't mind chit-chat, but it definitely adds to the social and emotional overwhelm of a hospital visit.

Fortunately, an amazing midwife support worker (MSW) became my regular observational person. She knew I was Autistic, and she was very clear on the expectations and what was happening. She even told me when she was going on leave and introduced me to the practitioner I would see whilst she was off.

The care at home was more intense. Checking my glucose levels six times a day, when I'm frightened of needles, was interesting! Changing meant that all my safe foods, and the comfort, familiarity and ease which come with them, were now potentially dangerous to me and my unborn son. I was 4 months pregnant, in the middle of a pandemic, working with vulnerable young people, and my only bit of salvageable routine was changed overnight.

The MSWs at the hospital were amazing but the diabetes team were difficult to get hold of and offered no real support. They said that they wanted me to report my levels to them every other week (I wrote it on my notes) and yet no one called me, and they seemed surprised when I called them. In a bout of hyper-focus, I found an amazing gestational diabetes charity and bought a second-hand book on GD. Together, these allowed me to make a new diet and regime for myself which included going for a short walk after food, drinking lots throughout the day, and balancing my carbs, proteins and fats. It was a lot of work.

Some people make all these big changes and the hormones which block their naturally occurring insulin still persist. Some pregnant folks must go on medication or start injecting insulin. My body was simply responding to what I did and, with a tonne of chicken ramen, cheese and yoghurt (not necessarily together), I had a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Useful resources:

Katie Munday is a multiply Neurodivergent and Disabled non-binary person.

They are an Autistic advocate and consultant who demystifies neurodivergent experiences. They support marginalised young people through sports, social groups and relational research.

Their major passion is disabled and LGBTQIA+ experiences and accessibility. They blog and consult on these areas and many more on their website:

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