Mrs. Adenike Aregbesola did not expect to develop gestational diabetes while she was pregnant with her first child. After all, she had no awareness of diabetes. The pregnancy had been smooth sailing — until during one of her visits to the hospital.
It was time for Mrs. Aregbesola to take the glucose test, which is used to check the mother’s blood sugar level, and she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is first seen in a pregnant woman who did not have diabetes before being pregnant.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (the national public health agency of the United States), some women have more than one pregnancy affected by gestational diabetes and it usually shows up in the middle of pregnancy. It said:
“Doctors, most often, test for it between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Usually, gestational diabetes can be controlled through eating healthy foods and regular exercise. Sometimes a woman with gestational diabetes must also take insulin.”
52-year-old Aregbesola has been living with diabetes for 35 years. She’s now a health educator on diabetes and hypertension.
Determination is key
Recounting her journey, told PUNCH HealthWise that she has been fortunate to meet doctors who are willing to listen to her and help her to live healthily.
“Then, no one knew about diabetes but my doctors helped me in my time of need. They were ready to listen to me and help me build my confidence every step of the way.
“I’ve changed what I eat to adapt to my blood sugar level. I’m now on long-acting insulin, which prevents me from getting blood sugar spikes at mealtimes. I also exercise more, I eat healthy foods that work for me and I don’t snack or take sugary things.”
The CDC noted that for most women with gestational diabetes, the health condition goes away soon after delivery. When it does not go away, the diabetes is called type 2 diabetes.
Even if diabetes does go away after the baby is born, half of all women who had gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes later, the agency said.
“It’s important for a woman who has had gestational diabetes to continue to exercise and eat a healthy diet after pregnancy to prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes. She should also remind her doctor to check her blood sugar every one to three years,”
Need for enlightenment
“Now, I enlighten people about diabetes. Though the awareness is still low, it is better than what it used to be. I advise people now. I tell them about the condition. I tell them I’ve been living with it for years and based on my experience, I advise them.
“There are times when you meet some people who attribute it to witchcraft and think they got it from their partners but I enlighten them so they know what is involved and how to take care of themselves and manage it,”
According to her, the challenges never cease, adding however that a couple of key factors help ensure she manages her condition.
Aregbesola takes a holistic approach to her health and is committed to healthy eating, exercise, and stress management.
She disclosed that while being thankful for the multitude of technology available in recent years, she understands that her diabetes success is ultimately her responsibility. She continues:
“First, it is a change in mindset. I have come to the realisation that I live with it and only I can control my diabetes. So I have embraced healthy lifestyle changes.
“Second is commitment. I am committed to continuing my daily blood glucose checks. I live with it, so I am committed to taking my drugs.
“When I wake up in the morning, I take my warm water, then exercise and take my fruits. Then I will prepare my food. At times, I will go for yam or wheat bread, preferably; but if there is no wheat bread, I take any other bread but not more than three slices and one boiled egg or pap with moin-moin. But, occasionally, I take it with akara or vegetable soup.
“For lunch, I can take amala. I usually watch out for the effects of what I eat. Then I eat potato flakes but everything must be in moderation.
“At night, I take only tea. If I have vegetable soup, I take some and sleep. I don’t eat snacks, no chocolate.”
Aregbesola lamented that people routinely delay seeking proper medical care when they attribute the condition to witchcraft. She said:
“When I see people living with diabetes, I encourage them but many people still don’t know about it; they think it is a curse or they got from their partners.
“My advice to anyone with diabetes is to embrace the commitments in improving their diabetes management and health and find things that work for them, and realise that medication is not the only solution to help you get to that desired healthy state you seek.”
She said the government needs to implement measures that target at-risk populations to prevent non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes.
“There are so many people who do not know anything about diabetes, yet they have it; so there is a need for a lot of awareness.
“Our medications are costly and it is going higher by the day. Our people need to be supported; the economic meltdown is affecting almost everybody but we need to take our medications. So, I want the government to really take this issue seriously,”