Receiving a gestational diabetes diagnosis can be alarming, especially during the vulnerable period of pregnancy. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5 to 9 percent of all pregnancies in the United States each year are affected by gestational diabetes. 

We spoke with Mandy Macurak, a nurse from Pennsylvania, who was diagnosed with this condition during her pregnancy in 2023, to share her experience.

Women in a pink dress holding her pregnant belly

Key Points:

  • Mandy Macurak managed her condition through diet, exercise, and technology-assisted monitoring, eventually requiring insulin.
  • Despite challenges, including preeclampsia leading to an early delivery, Macurak successfully gave birth to a healthy baby and continues to monitor her health postpartum.
  • Raising awareness and education about gestational diabetes can lessen stigma and help women manage their condition effectively.

While gestational diabetes is relatively common, many people are unaware of what to expect upon diagnosis or the specifics of the condition. 

Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women and represents a temporary state of insulin resistance. It is typically diagnosed between 24 and 48 weeks of gestation when the body can no longer produce enough insulin to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. 

For pregnant women, normal glucose targets are fasting blood sugar levels under 95 mg/dL (5.3 mmol/L), 1-hour post-meal levels under 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L), and 2-hour post-meal levels under 120 mg/dL (6.7 mmol/L).

Fortunately, the condition usually resolves after childbirth.

Can you share your journey of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes? What were the first signs and symptoms?

Macurak explains,

“I truly had no symptoms at all. I was tested for gestational diabetes early on in my pregnancy during the first trimester. I have a history of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which increases your risk of gestational diabetes, so they did do an early test. At that time my testing was normal.”

She continues,

“I was retested in my second trimester and failed my 1-hour glucose test. I had a 3-hour test done which I also failed, leading to my diagnosis at 27 weeks.”

See more in: How to Test for Gestational Diabetes.

How did you feel emotionally after receiving your diagnosis?

Macurak shares her turmoil, saying,

“I was devastated. I felt like I was failing my child and putting her at risk. I thought somehow that I had caused it.”

It’s important to emphasize that gestational diabetes is not a result of personal failure. With careful management through medications, diet, or exercise, many women can still experience a healthy pregnancy and delivery despite the diagnosis.

What changes did you make in your diet and lifestyle after the diagnosis?

Despite practicing healthy habits before her diagnosis, Macurak had to make further adjustments.

“I had a lot of swelling during my pregnancy and other complications, so I had already been eating pretty healthy. I cut out the ice cream, which I was having a lot of cravings for before my diagnosis. I also began walking more after meals,”

she says.

To complement dietary changes, increasing physical activity is crucial for managing blood sugar levels during pregnancy. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity combined with two strength training sessions per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. 

Regular exercise not only lowers blood sugar but also enhances insulin sensitivity, which is vital for those diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

How did you monitor your blood sugar levels, and what tools or resources were most helpful?

Macurak shares that she did not require insulin initially upon her diagnosis of gestational diabetes.

“I checked my blood sugar four times a day. Fasting and then an hour after each meal,”

she explains.

“I used an app called Current Health Monitoring where I then input my readings.”

Initially, she managed her condition through dietary changes and increased physical activity.

Could you describe the type of support you received from healthcare professionals?

Macurak was referred to a team of specialists who care for women with higher-risk pregnancies. 

She explains,

“When I was diagnosed, I was referred to Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) to closely monitor the baby. Since diabetes can cause macrosomia [a larger-than-average newborn], I had ultrasounds every four weeks to check the baby’s size. I met with a dietitian to review healthy choices. I also had a team of nurses who reviewed my blood sugar readings weekly in the Current Health Monitoring app. After about a month, I was no longer able to manage with diet and exercise (exercise was limited due to severe swelling in my legs causing so much discomfort).” 

She continues,

“I was then started on insulin. Once I became insulin-dependent, I had weekly non-stress tests done on the baby, but my blood sugars seemed to finally stabilize.” 

Were there any particular pieces of advice or treatments that you found most effective?

Macurak found integrating technology with her care team’s support to be particularly helpful. 

She explains,

“I found the Current Health Monitoring app helpful. I was able to put my readings in and the nurses were able to view and adjust my insulin as needed. I was also able to send my care team messages through the app to discuss my readings or if I had any concerns.” 

Were there any complications during your pregnancy or delivery that were attributed to gestational diabetes?

Macurak delivered earlier than planned, though not directly due to gestational diabetes. 

“I did end up delivering my daughter at 37 weeks due to preeclampsia,”

she explains.

“The plan was to induce at 39 weeks due to being insulin-dependent; however, I did not make it that far.” 

Despite these challenges, her daughter was born healthy.

“My daughter was born at 8 pounds 1 ounce at 37 weeks, so a bit larger for her gestational age, but very healthy!” 

How do you manage your health now, and have there been any long-term effects?

After delivery, Macurak’s gestational diabetes resolved, but it’s complicated.

She explains,

“I am no longer taking insulin; however, my blood sugars are still a little elevated. I continue to try and manage through diet and exercise. My recent A1c [a measure of glucose control over the previous 2 to 3 months] was 5.9 percent, so we continue to monitor. I will continue to be checked [for diabetes] every 6 months.”

Read more in: Does Gestational Diabetes Go Away After Giving Birth?

What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes?

Macurak’s advice is straightforward:

“It is not your fault, and just do your best. Pregnancy can be very hard, and there are so many emotions and hormonal changes. Be kind to yourself, take care of yourself, and do the best you can for you and your baby.” 

Are there any resources or support groups you recommend?

Macurak shares that she found valuable support in online communities and close relationships.

“I did find support through groups on Reddit and The Bump,”

she says. Additionally, she received significant support from her family, friends, and husband.

How do you think awareness about gestational diabetes can be improved?

Macurak, who had more knowledge than most due to her background in healthcare, believes there is a significant gap in public understanding. Not many people are educated or even aware of what gestational diabetes is. She points out the stigma associated with the condition, which often prevents women from sharing their experiences and leads many to feel unjustly ashamed. 

“It is also very scary thinking that your body could be failing your unborn child. I think a lot more education can help women feel more at ease and that their child is safe as long as the diabetes is properly managed.”

Macurak reflects on her own journey, delivering a healthy baby girl despite the challenges. 

“It was worth the wild ride,”

she says.

Learn more about gestational diabetes in Gestational Diabetes: Everything You Need to Know. Did you find this article helpful? Click Yes or No below to let us know!