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Being pregnant and managing gestational diabetes during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Being pregnant during a global pandemic is something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams, but here I am. On top of the uncertainty that comes along with a pregnancy during this time, I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which added another level of fear and uncertainty.

We had just celebrated our unborn son at a baby shower with my entire family and friends the week before COVID-19 started to affect businesses and employees were being told to work from home. I was 23 weeks pregnant and went from feeling joyous and excited to the stark contrast of feeling confused and scared. My mind was flooded with questions: What would happen if I got sick? How could it affect my baby? Will this situation go into July when our son is due? Will my family and friends be able to visit when he is born?

Though the latter half of my pregnancy was not like I imagined it would be, the staff at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women has been incredibly helpful and supportive. I’ve been able to convert some of my appointments into virtual visits which has been convenient and still allows me to ask all of my questions. I have also found my care team to be very responsive via MyChart when I have additional questions.

When I went to the Pavilion for Women for my 3-hour glucose test, the hospital seemed rather empty when I arrived, but I expected this as I knew the goal was to reduce overall traffic to avoid spread COVID-19. I also expected to go through a screening process before going to my appointment because the staff called me in advance and explained what my visit would look like.

I was politely greeted by a security guard who escorted me to the first floor where I was to be screened. They asked me several questions about exposure to the virus, etc., took my temperature and gave me a visitor badge. I was then escorted to the elevators that took me to the 15th floor. I took my glucose test and was poked and prodded by needles several times. The results came back through MyChart a day later that I failed the test and was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

At first I thought the diagnosis was my fault. I should have eaten better while I was pregnant or lost more weight before I even became pregnant. But I soon found out from a gestational diabetes counselor that it has more to do with a hormonal issue with the placenta and how my body processes glucose during pregnancy. I will say, having this diagnosis is just one more thing to manage as I have to track what I eat and test my blood every four hours – on top of remembering to wear a mask, wipe down everything that comes into the house and keep 6 ft. away from anyone who’s not my husband. But it’s not difficult to manage as long as I stay on top of it.

After learning about my diagnosis, I was grateful to have the option to have a virtual visit with the gestational diabetes counselor. The counselor walked me through some of the information about how to manage my condition and also called in a prescription for a glucose test kit called Accu-Check, so I could start testing and logging my blood glucose levels.

I tested my blood four times a day and logged my levels for about a week and a half and then had my “official” first phone call with another GD counselor. They helped me understand what adjustments I could make to my meals to help lower my glucose levels and walked me through the handouts again to make sure I didn’t have any questions. They instructed me to submit my glucose logs every Monday so they can evaluate my levels. If they are too high then I will need to take medication. If I can manage my levels with diet and exercise, no medication is needed.

I recently had my 28-week appointment at the Pavilion for Women with Dr. Longerot, which included a growth scan with our maternal-fetal medicine team (MFM). I knew in advance that my husband would not be able to attend this appointment due to the new hospital policies put in place to protect patients and staff, and was grateful he had been there for my previous ultrasounds.

My growth ultrasound went well and my friendly sonographer texted me a link to download the images and video clips from the exam so I could show my husband! After my appointment, I tried explaining to my husband what the MFM detailed to me and didn’t do a very good job. So I asked via MyChart if they could send me the written ultrasound summary so I could share it with him. They sent it the next day and my husband was happy and felt “in the loop.” The staff is really going above and beyond to ensure everyone feels cared for and informed.

As I near my delivery date, I anticipate thinking more about my birth experience. With things evolving so rapidly due to COVID-19, I have worries about what my experience might look like. However, as long as I have my husband by my side, that’s all I need. In fact, it may be best if it’s just the two of us so we can focus on learning how to take care of our newborn, and not having a ton of visitors may be a good thing!

Overall, I’m very grateful for the time I’ve had at home and the extra time with my husband. I also think being home while pregnant with gestational diabetes has helped me stay on track with my diet as there are no distractions. We’ve been social distancing by avoiding gatherings - even on Easter - and host Zoom calls with family instead. We’ve been working from home during the week so the only time we get out of the house are our walks around the neighborhood to get some fresh air. Even on walks, we make sure to keep 6 ft. away from anyone else on the sidewalk. We continuously wash our hands, use hand sanitizer religiously and wipe down any surfaces items from the “outside world” have touched. And, if either of us venture out to the grocery store (my husband typically goes), we make sure to wear a mask and gloves. Having to remember to do all of this is pretty stressful. Especially when I have pregnancy brain and am much more forgetful than I normally am.

Through these difficult times, I try to remind myself how exciting life will be once our baby boy is born. I’ve been decorating the nursery, my husband and I selected a name that we’re really excited about – William Wyatt Herbst – and I’ve been making a list of everything I need to monogram with his initials. These are the things that I focus on to bring positive vibes into our daily lives!

Post by:

Emily Herbst