Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Running while Pregnant - 34 Weeks Gestation

If running all year long doesn't prove that I'm a serious runner, maybe the fact that I'm still running now will. I will be 35 weeks along in my pregnancy in a couple of days. I just went running today.

With my first pregnancy, I ran until I reached about my 5th month of pregnancy. I was happy with my effort. It got too hard after that because I would leak urine whenever I ran. So I stopped and I went for walks every day.

This time around, I have forced myself to go longer. I am nearly 9 months along now. Already?!?! Initially, I felt worst and didn't think I would even make it to my 5th month but over time, running surprisingly got easier. I had hard days here and there but my body adjusted and now I'm not worried. I'm at the point where I'm just taking it one run at a time. My current goal is to make it to 36 weeks or before my son goes back to school. When he goes back to school, I'll be walking a lot more every day and running on top of that might feel like too much. But we will see :)

What is it like to run while being pregnant? Well, during my first trimester, I was extremely nauseous and I barely ate anything since I had food aversions to nearly half the things I used to eat. It was really strange. I actually lost 5 pounds from that. I read that exercise could help nausea so I forced myself to continue running. I felt sick to my stomach when I did run but I never vomited. I was nauseous pretty much 24 hrs a day until about my 16th week of pregnancy. Besides feeling sick, running was the same as usual. I ran 8-10km each time and I ran fast.

During my second trimester, the nausea sort of went away and I started to get my appetite back. Running however, got a little more challenging. My crotch started to hurt a lot during my runs. I brought this up with my OB and she told me that it's normal since I had given birth in the past and I'm all stretched out down there. I decided to start wearing a belly band over my running shorts and I pushed through each run. A few weeks later, the pain sort of went away. It still came back sometimes when I ran but it didn't bother me very much. My muscles must have gotten stronger. Next, came the right shin pains on my leg. It was so weird because it was only my right shin and it would have a piercing pain shortly after I started running and would continue until I stopped running. It was so painful! To help my blood circulation, I added compression socks to my run. The shin pains continued for a month or so and then it went away. I also cut down on my running and reduced my speed. I was then running 5-7.5km each time. I think doing that helped a lot with all the pains.

In my third trimester, I was even more determined to keep running after I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. It's funny because my running goals kept changing throughout my pregnancy. With each new pain, I would create new goals for myself. But then the pain would go away and I had no excuse to stop. I enjoyed running on my own while my son was still in school but when he was released for the summer, I thought I had to stop. But we started training him on his endurance on weekends before the end of the school year and by the time school ended, he was able to run with us. He's only 6 1/2 years old and he can run 7km nonstop now. He's practically a gifted young runner :) That meant that he could run with me all the time now.

Comments I have received while I was on the trail running (I only received three. Many people stare but don't usually talk to you.):
Female walker: "Good job!"
Female biker: "OMG, you are amazing!"
Male biker: "Running for two, good for you!"

I only run maybe twice a week now so it's not that demanding. Plus now I can only run 4km at a time. At the beginning of my third trimester, my lower back started to hurt. I guess my center of gravity was totally shifting. Then that pain went away. Now, I'm just plain tired. All over. It's exhausting lugging all this extra weight around. My lower belly and crotch aches every time I run. I can feel the extra weight on my legs as well and I sort of waddle along now. Lol. You might be able to guess that I'm a pregnant runner just by running behind me. Ha! I feel the need to pee, especially at the start of my run and I think my belly goes into contraction for my entire run. At least it feels that way. Despite all the discomforts I feel, I can still clock 25 minutes for a 4km run. I'm happy with that. Afterwards, my whole body is sore for 24-48 hours. But it's totally worth it :)

Overall, I feel great. I don't experience any typical pregnancy issues like backaches, varicose veins, edema, tiredness, leg spasms, lack of energy etc. Plus, I was able to control my weight gain, I sleep better, feel happier, and my blood glucose is down! I'll admit it's totally hard to run being this pregnant but all the benefits keep me going. In fact, I have heard from many expecting moms that once they stopped or reduced their exercise routine significantly, they started to experience all sorts of discomforts like leg spasms at night. It's nice to know too that what is good for me is also good for the baby. I'm 7 years older now than when I had my first child so I feel like I should do a little extra this time around to be healthier overall for baby #2. Older moms are at a greater risk for all sorts of bad things in pregnancy (like gestational diabetes) compared to younger moms.

I read stories of women running in their third trimester and right up until a few weeks of labor and I was always amazed by them. I never imagined I could be one of those women one day. I felt the same way about people running marathons and then I ran a couple of marathons. It's surprisingly what your body and mind is capable of. You just have to have the motivation and discipline to carry out your goals.

I would like to finish this post with a few tips I have learned along the way for running while being pregnant:

  • Wear compression socks or bands.
  • Wear a belly support band.
  • Wear a maternity running top or one that is very long so that it more or less covers your belly :)
  • Bring water, even on short runs and drink whenever you are thirsty. Don't get dehydrated!
  • Stay cool by running where there is shade and if you need to, run early in the morning before it gets too hot.
  • Wear sunblock! Your skin is more sensitive to the sun while you are pregnant.
  • Pick an easy running route. I run on a long trail that is pretty much flat all the way :)
  • If you are running alone, pick a route where there are a lot of people, in case you need help. This is especially important if you don't have a cell phone. I didn't have one until a month ago.
  • If it's rainy season, run in layers so it's easy to remove layers when you get hot.
  • Don't worry about time or distance. Run just for the exercise and for fun. You have nothing to prove here. The fact that you are running for two is enough!
  • Unless you have complications like bleeding or serious pains that only get worst and worst, know that pains come and go and you're probably okay. However, do listen to your body. Check with your doctor if you are really worried.
  • Remember to stretch well after you finish your run.
  • If you weren't a regular runner before getting pregnant, now is not the time to start running. Sorry :(
  • Do other exercises on days you don't run like walking, yoga, body workouts with weights etc. The combination of all of these will benefit you even more.
  • Eat a healthy and well balanced diet, especially if you have gestational diabetes like me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Strict Diet While Battling Gestational Diabetes

Bombs away! I have never had a health issue in my life until a few weeks ago. I went for my glucose tolerance test and failed 1/3 tests by just 3 points. It doesn't matter if you fail them all or fail by a lot or fail by a bit. One fail is all it takes to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Crap.

Since that test, my life got much more complicated and it really sucks. I really feel for all the millions out there that battle diabetes every day of their lives. It's sad enough not being able to eat sweets and bakes but carbohydrates from wheat, rice, pasta, fruit, and starchy vegetables are hard to cut back on. I'm a runner and I have always been on a fairly high carbohydrate diet. I often pick complex carbohydrates like brown rice and whole wheat or multigrain bread and I eat tons of fruit but that is no longer possible. At least for a couple of months. Oh please let me go back to normal in a couple of months!!!

The "gestational diabetic" diet I am on right now makes my little "no sweets and bakes eating" diet I put myself on for one month years ago look like a complete joke. So here's the thing. I have to cut back on my total carbohydrate intake because that will spike my glucose level but I still have to get plenty of good carbohydrates, preferably through complex carbs and fruits so I can gain weight every week. It's like playing with fire! It's been three weeks now and I have a good idea of how to control my glucose levels but I've only gained one or two pounds in the past month. In fact, after the first week on my new diet, I lost one pound. And that's with adding an extra meal to my day too.

A typical lunch for me. This gives me a reading just below what I'm allowed.

In additional to my new strict diet, I have to prick my finger one hour after every meal or snack, plus once when I wake up for my fasting blood glucose test. To make my life slightly easier, I only eat three times a day and I don't snack at all. That equates to four pokes a day for four blood tests. I work with all 10 fingers but even after three weeks, I can already start to see needle scars on some of the fingers. Waahh:( I also write down every single thing that I eat and drink, my mood changes and what and how much exercise I do every moment of the day. I have timers set up throughout the day and so much of my attention has been diverted to this new problem I have now. On top of this, I have about three other somewhat annoying things I need to deal with daily and suddenly every day is a busy day.

Dinner salad. Chickpeas make up most of the carbs but also hidden carbs in veggies & dressing.

I am a fighter. I have always been and I don't give up easily. I will do whatever it takes to avoid insulin medication. I hate drugs. I don't even take Tylenol when I have terrible headaches or cramps. My body sort of figures out how to heal itself on it's own. That's what I like about it. It might take longer but eventually it happens. It's wonderful. Of course if I'm sick with a cold, I'll take something to avoid spreading it to others. I am a mom after all and I need to take care of my family.

Camping was hard enough but I sort of just started my new diabetic diet then too. I take my condition very serious. I know what is at stake here. While my husband and son dined on camping food like roasted marshmallows and hot chocolate, I had to stuff my face with raw vegetables and drink water. The hardest part was having to take my glucose readings since we were hiking throughout the day and we didn't have access to soap and water all the time. I had to use an alcohol pad to clean my finger before poking it on a few occasions. Yes, while in the middle of a hike too! When the timer goes off, it's time to poke.

Taking my glucose test during a hike on Mount Rainier.

The past few weeks have been a bit experimental for me as I tried different foods and tried to monitor how it affected my glucose level. I was tired of being afraid of food and I didn't want to feel like a failure every time my reading went over. I wanted to look at it as a way for me to monitor how different foods were affecting me. When I knew something was bad for me, I would cut down and eat just a bit of it and see. The last dietitian at the diabetic clinic didn't quite approve of my experiment since I was over on several occasions :(

There are so many factors that can influence the glucose numbers. Diet and exercise will affect them but so does the level of stress you feel, if you're sleep deprived, how fast you digest food, how long you spend eating your meal, whether or not you are testing properly and even your home glucose meter is not 100% reliable. I read that home glucose meters only need to be accurate to 15% of lab results. After all, labs use equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars, have trained technicians that test and calibrate the machines regularly, use a larger blood sample collected from your arm, and can control for things like temperature and humidity in the lab. If your finger is dirty when you test your blood, that could introduce another 10% error. I try to not read too much into the numbers as a result. Unfortunately, I find that my diabetic clinic does read a lot into the numbers. At my last visit, I was repeatedly told that my food choices are beautiful but I need to cut back on the quantity. Eat more carbs, now eat less carbs. Okay!

Glucose readings are tricky. You can eat the exact same meal from day to day and get numbers that are off my 20 mg/dL or more. That happened to me a couple of times. I was feeling fine both times as well. All this only makes it harder to track and control my levels. The idea is to eat just enough to be in the safe zone, even if there is a 20 mg/dL error. But that's hard too. Because when I don't eat enough I do feel hungry and there is only so much raw vegetables and salad I can eat. I mean I love vegetables but I have been eating so much of them lately that I'm a bit terrified. Thank goodness it's the summer and I have a wide variety of vegetables to choose from without breaking the bank. But I'm still getting sick of them. Every few days I'll do something a little different with them like I'll make a different salad dressing or dip. After that, I eat the exact same thing for two or three days straight. Ugh.

Here's what I have to achieve all the time:

Morning Fasting Target: 60-90 mg/dL
1 Hour Post-meal Target: < 130 mg/dL

(Interesting note: In Canada, they allow for < 140 mg/dL after 1 hour.)

What a typical dinner could look like for me:
  • 1/2 cup brown/white rice, kidney beans, chickpea mix
  • 1/2 cup salmon
  • 1/4 cup stir fry zucchini with purlane
  • 3 cup mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, mushroom, green peppers, olives, chickpeas with basil vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 glass of water
  • Glucose Reading for the above: 125 mg/dL after 1 hour

This dinner here gave me a glucose reading of 125 mg/dL after 1 hour. I barely made it!

Foods that are absolutely terrible for my glucose:
  • 1 bagel (I only tried multigrain and pumpernickel and my glucose went to the roof! Never again.)
  • 2 slices of Papa John's veggie pizza with crusts removed
  • Pho and mango bubble tea with lychee jelly
  • Anything more than 1 cup of low sugar cereal with no fruit
  • Fig newton bars (I had 2 pieces and my glucose shot up super high.)
  • Half of a chicken burger with tons of veggies (However, one-sided chicken burger is great!)
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread with various seeds (I can only safely eat 1 slice.)
  • Nespresso decaf coffee capsules (Odd but true! I am pretty sure they inject carbohydrates into these. Normal decaf does not spike my glucose.)
  • Any sweet treat, even small ones the size of my baby finger.
  • Anything more than 1 cup of fruit (unless they're berries)
  • 2 plain medium size kefir pancakes with nothing on it

Foods that are great for my glucose:
  • All non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, sweet peppers, mushrooms, celery, eggplant, bittermelon
  • Beans like kidney beans, chickpeas in limited quantities
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Solid cheeses (No carbs!)
  • Low fat or non-fat yogurt with low sugar
  • Almond or coconut milk (Pretty much no carbohydrates and it goes well with my decaf coffee.)
  • Peanut butter or sunflower butter on my bread
  • Nuts, all kinds that are unsalted or slightly salted
  • Quinoa, barley, brown rice etc. in limited quantities
  • Whole grain, multigrain crackers e.g. Mary crackers
  • Berries, especially blackberries (The more seeds you can see, the better!)
  • Avocado
  • Tomato, fresh or in sauce form
  • Use of agave syrup instead of other sweeteners (Agave has a glycemic index of only 15)
  • Freshly popped popcorn with nuts
If you want to read more, check out the list of super foods for diabetics.

At first, I asked myself how this could have happened to me. This must be a mistake. People with my profile who generally eats healthy, dislikes foods that are too sweet, and exercises regularly should not get diabetes. I have had glucose screenings in the past but they were all normal, despite sometimes eating too much cake or cookies. My husband and I had numbers that were so good, the nurses kept telling us to "keep doing what you're doing!" But I have come to realize that all this was sort of out of my control. I was on a good diet, I kept up with my running and I felt strong and energetic most of the time. If I had to do it over again, I would probably not change much and I would still be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I'm pretty certain of it. I sort of blame my advanced age :) Ahem. Although the sugar loading in Portland right before my glucose screening probably didn't help me much either. Lol. However, if my body was working correctly, it wouldn't have mattered. That's what I was told.
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