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How to Have A Natural Birth with Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant woman with Gestational Diabetes checking her sugars

If you’ve been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes it can be so disappointing, especially if you were planning a natural birth. But don’t lose heart. You still have options! I’m going to share some tips with you on how to have a natural birth with Gestational Diabetes.

It is very possible.

It’s more work, but it’s still very doable.

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Please note: I am not a doctor or licensed medical professional. I am simply relaying tips and information I was given by my own medical staff and healthcare providers. Please do not view this post as medical advice and consult with your doctor or healthcare professional if you have questions regarding your health.

Hands checking blood glucose with Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy for natural birth.

My Story About My Natural Birth with Gestational Diabetes

I’ll share my story very quickly and then share the tips I learned about how to have a natural birth when you have Gestational Diabetes.

I was diagnosed with GD after failing my glucose tolerance test. The medical assistant called me up and said, “You’re a gestational diabetic.”

At first, I was devastated. After doing some research it basically sounded to me like being told I had Gestational Diabetes meant no natural birth, a certain induction, and almost certainly a C-section.

Terrified that I was going to be whisked away for an emergency C-section, I was determined to figure out a way to learn all of my options.

Despite all the scary details and stories about GD, I was determined to do my best to find a way to have a natural birth.

Guess what?

That’s exactly what happened.

If this is your first pregnancy and you’ve been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, everything you read and hear can make you think you no longer have choices about your birth. It can seem like just having a healthy baby will be a miracle.

I’m living proof that simply is not the case. You still have choices and you still have (almost) all the control.

Now, this isn’t a guarantee that everything will go your way, but the purpose of this post is to reassure you that you still have options.

Being diagnosed with GD does not mean game over.

I’m going to share with you what I did to have a natural birth even when I had Gestational Diabetes.

No medications, no interventions, no induction and no C-Section.

Read Simply Mama Fearless, a short preggo book with straight encouragement and support.

Hand holding blood glucose test with food in the background and Gestational Diabetes text overlay for natural birth.

What Is Gestational Diabetes? Does it Mean I Can’t Have A Natural Birth?

To break it down, here are some things to know about GD (don’t get nervous–there’s a lot more to it all):

  • GD is basically your body’s inability to break sugars down properly
  • When uncontrolled, GD can affect the placenta and your baby’s oxygen levels and reception of nutrients
  • GD can cause a toxic environment for baby, increasing the risk of birth complications and even stillbirth

You can read more about exactly what Gestational Diabetes is from Mayo Clinic here.

What does this mean for your pregnancy, exactly?

  • GD changes the status of your pregnancy and how doctors view you
  • If you establish with an OB they’ll require you to monitor your blood glucose daily
  • Having GD often is a disqualifying factor for midwifery services
  • GD can commonly require medication (if uncontrolled)
  • You will, beyond a doubt, be monitored closely by your OB and you will be required to have NST (Non-Stress Test) monitoring for Baby
  • Most OB’s will recommend induction at 36-38 weeks depending on the status of your health and the stability of your blood glucose levels
  • A GD diagnosis increases the risk of having a C-section

Remember, You Have Natural Birth Options Even When You Have Gestational Diabetes

This all might sound scary. Just remember–it’s not necessarily game over for your natural birth!

Let’s talk about 5 tips on how to have a natural birth when you have Gestational Diabetes.

1. Find the Right Perspective

When the medical assistant called me to inform me that I “was a gestational diabetic”, the first thing that went through my mind was… ummm, no. I’m not wearing that label.

Sure, on paper there was no escaping being put in a certain box.

But for me, I simply refused to think of myself this way, and for me, this was important.

In order to accomplish your birth goals, 95% of the journey is mental preparation.

That means your mind needs to be in the right place.

If you mentally give in to the label that “you are a gestational diabetic” it can unconsciously bring a sense of acceptance.

That may not necessarily be a bad thing, but if you’re a little too accepting, you can lose your sense of fight.

In order to accomplish those natural birth goals, it’s going to take some extra grit.

Keep in touch with reality but protect your mind from taking you down a path you may not be willing to walk just yet.

2. Control Your Diet (Adapt A Gestational Diabetes Diet)

If you’ve read any GD articles or posts, you already know how important it is to control your diet.

My nutritionist stressed the importance of protein. Protein helps your body break down sugars.

Remember, carbs turn into sugars.

A helpful tip she shared with me was to add protein to the carbs and sugars I ate, like cheese with fruit, or peanut butter with toast.

Watching your sugar intake is a given. Just remember to increase your protein intake, too.

Did you know that quality sleep directly affects your blood glucose levels? Get good sleep! Use this pregnancy pillow. ( I still use it and my second son is 3 months old)

You’ll probably be asked to record what you eat in a food journal along with your blood glucose levels.

This is helpful to keep an eye out on what foods cause your sugars to spike and avoid them.

Different foods effect people differently. Learn what foods work best for you. That way you can find some yummy and enjoyable foods, too!

3. Stay Active

Staying active is important during pregnancy, no matter what. If you’ve been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, it’s now crucial.

Find something you can do every day to get your body moving.

Walking, birthing ball exercises, anything you can do to get your heart rate pumping and the blood flowing will help you immensely.

For me, swimming saved my pregnancy.

If you are diagnosed with GD, swimming is one of the very best things you can do.

Swimming is easy on the joints and muscles which is nice during pregnancy anyway. But did you know that swimming helps stabilize your blood sugar?

It also improves circulation and reduces inflammation.

If it’s at all possible, find yourself a pool and swim, girl, swim!

Stay active and aligned with a birthing ball. It made a huge difference during both of my labors.

4. Plan Your Labor

I’ve mentioned this in other posts and it’s so important.

You need to plan your labor.

Planning your labor doesn’t directly relate to GD, but girl, it directly relates to you.

A labor plan is not a birth plan. A Labor plan is a written plan for what you want to do during your labor, usually at home. Use a labor plan to map out exactly what you want to happen during the hours you labor before going to the hospital.

Forming a labor plan puts your mind in the right place. It boosts your confidence and helps you feel prepared for your labor and childbirth.

Like I said, natural birth is 95% mental preparation.

Planning your labor is a huge part of that.

A Labor Plan:

  • Helps you set the tone for your childbirth
  • Organizes your preferences so your wants & needs are clear
  • Lists who you want around you while you’re having contractions
  • Creates an orderly plan for transitioning to the hospital
  • Allows you to create the environment of your choice for your labor
  • Reduces stress levels for both you and your support team
  • Lowers fear and anxiety, which directly affects the rhythm of your contractions and labor

I can’t stress it enough.

Girl. Plan your labor.

Boost your confidence for a more successful labor and childbirth experience with this book of Biblical Birth Affirmations.

5. Have An Open Mind

Prepare yourself for the fact that even though you’ve done everything you can, your birth simply may not go according to plan.

There are no guarantees when it comes to childbirth. Even a normal pregnancy without Gestational Diabetes is a massive gray zone.

Feel confident that you’ve done all you can, but all the while understand that sometimes it just simply isn’t that simple.

If your plans change and your childbirth experience doesn’t go according to plan, don’t beat yourself up or allow yourself to feel like you failed, somehow.

You did an incredible job, and don’t you forget it.

Pregnant woman with Gestational Diabetes holding her hand over her belly planning a natural birth.

Tips for How to Control Your Sugars with Gestational Diabetes

Taking responsibility for your own health and watching your own sugars will improve your chances of avoiding medications and additional interventions during labor and delivery.

Yes, it takes work, but if you want to accomplish a natural birth with GD, here is what you need to do:

  • Severely limit sugary foods and snacks
  • Cut out candies and chocolates (it ain’t worth the spike, Sis)
  • Eat protein, protein, protein!
  • Start your day off with more protein and less carbs and sugars (boiled eggs and avocado vs. fruit and cereal)
  • Pair fruits or carbs with protein (i.e. eat a cheese stick with an apple)
  • Eat consistently throughout the day (graze)
  • Exercise! The more moving, the better your body can work on regulating those sugar levels. Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise during pregnancy (and it feels great)
  • Monitor your sugars to watch for triggers. Some foods will cause a spike and monitoring your sugars consistently will help you avoid them
  • Try and get quality sleep (trust me and use a pregnancy pillow). Exhaustion effects your sugars (yes, I’m serious)
  • Drink a lot of water and avoid sugary drinks
  • If you crave juice or just need flavor, dilute it with carbonated water (1/4 juice to 3/4 fizzy water. Pop a straw in that glass and enjoy)
  • Watch yourself more closely as your pregnancy progresses. The further along you get the harder your body has to work to regulate your blood glucose
  • Stay positive! Be a fighter and take control. You can do something!

Questions to Ask Your OB About Gestational Diabetes and Natural Birth

I simply do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all method to handling GD for everyone.

However, the medical field has a pretty strict protocol when it comes to managing GD, and for good reason.

If you have been managing your GD and are healthy, here are some gentle ways you can ask questions to accomplish a natural birth. Please be nice–your OB is not out to get you.

1: Delayed Induction

A lot of doctors prefer to induce mamas with Gestational Diabetes at 36-38 weeks. There is a medical reason for this.

The main reason my doctor shared with me is that GD can create a toxic environment for your baby.

However, if your sugars have been under great control, you’ve been compliant and have monitored and recorded your glucose levels and have gotten your routine NST’s, you might have some wiggle room.

I asked my doctor if we could delay my induction since my sugars were perfect.

She agreed as long as I went in for NST’s twice a week and continued to closely monitor my glucose levels.

As a result, I went into labor spontaneously at 38 1/2 weeks and delivered a perfectly healthy, 7-lb baby without any interventions.

That’s why I’m sharing this tip with you!

2: Additional Options

There is a lot of medical info out there regarding GD, but the best place to get direct tips and education is from your OB.

Ask for any resources they have that they can share with you as well as what all of your options are.

Work with your doctor to learn all you can and find every available option to you.

Are your bags packed and ready for the hospital yet? If not, get some lifesaving tips here!

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2 COMMENTS

  • Lara

    I stumbled upon this in my Pinterest feed and wish I had seems more post like this sooner. My story is similar. When I first got pregnant I wanted to use a birth center, no drugs and have a perfect pregnancy (is that really a thing!?). I went with an OB because I needed to confirm and was getting really close to the 8 week mark, was speaking with a birth center around the time it was determined it wasn’t going to really be possible. Weeks 7 to 16/17 the morning (all day) sickness was rough and consisted of mainly carbs and not much else. At 12 weeks my sugar was already in question. I took and failed the 1 hour glucose test shortly after which prompted the 3 hour test which I of course failed leaflet to GD diagnoses at 16 weeks. I was devastated to put it lightly and I have a fear of needles (testing 4x a day wasn’t as bad as I thought). I attended one class on GD and required to monitor glucose levels after meals and write down what I ate. The recommended diet would have packed on the pounds and landed me on insulin if I had followed the class instructions. Low carb/keto is basically what kept everything in check, I maintained perfect glucose levels by diet alone right up to delivery despite being told that diet control may not be possible later in pregnancy. I knew induction was a possibility at 20 weeks but had never really been discussed fully or scheduled. At the 38 week appt doc I had never seen and wasn’t scheduled to see decided she wanted to induce ASAP going into week 39. Now she did not want to take into account that my glucose and blood pressure were perfect. I did get my doc to allow me to go the extra week because I wanted a natural birth. My due date was Christmas and I got scheduled for induction the evening of the 23rd unfortunately I didn’t go into labor myself although I may have if I had gotten the chance. I never got to pitocin thankfully since the pills to soften the cervix worked (we’re actually too effective and had to have labor slowed down) my baby was born in two pushes almost exactly 12 hours into the induction. After my water broke I wasn’t checked until my husband got the nurse because I was complaining and he didn’t know what I was talking about. Later on I found out that the actual term is fetal expulsion reflex. I had to push but because they said it’s normally 24 hours from induction to delivery I didn’t know what was going on so I was definitely pushing on my own before the doc came to deliver. In all that it possible to stay off insulin, not have any drugs and have a good delivery.

    • mamafearlessinspiration
      AUTHOR

      Thank you for sharing your birth story! I love how you took responsibility into your own hands and worked toward the birth you wanted to have. Even though it may not have been 100% how you expected it to be (but what birth ever is?) you still got great results because of your hard work! Great job, Mama! Thank you, again!

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