Tuesday, 06 October 2020 17:01

Controlling gestational diabetes for a healthy pregnancy: A patient’s success story

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Joanne Neighbors, left; Molly Koczarski, FirstHealth dietician Joanne Neighbors, left; Molly Koczarski, FirstHealth dietician FirstHealth

PINEHURST — Having a baby should be a happy time in any woman’s life. 

Moore County resident Joanne Neighbors is enjoying plenty of snuggles with her new addition, Elias, but his arrival didn’t come without some challenges. 


Joanne got pregnant just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and during her pregnancy she was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes, putting both herself and her unborn son at higher risk. 

“At the time I was diagnosed, Elias was considered macrosomic, a baby who is born much larger than average for their gestational age, and at risk for all of the associated issues,” Neighbors wrote in an email detailing her experience. Those issues could have included a difficult delivery and health problems later in life like obesity and diabetes. 

“When I was first diagnosed, it’s horrible because you blame yourself. And you are freaked out because you are reading about the additional risk factors,” Neighbors said.

None of that would come to fruition, however, after Joanne started working with Molly Koczarski, one of FirstHealth’s registered dietitians working in the Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center. 

Joanne and Molly worked together to develop a nutrition plan, and Joanne followed it closely beginning in week 30 of her pregnancy. 

“Pregnancy is such an amazing and important time, and my goal for Joanne was to make sure she was fueling her body with nutritious and whole food and getting adequate nutrition for her baby,” Koczarski said. “Our main focus was not to eliminate foods but to tailor Joanne’s nutrition to keep her blood sugar within a normal range.” 

After their consultation, Molly and Joanne continued to communicate, tracking her blood sugar levels as they implemented the plan. 

“I knew it was a plan that I had to stick to for a short time, and it was concrete and very easy to follow,” Neighbors said. “Molly helped me monitor my total carbs, sent me recipes and additional resources. It was super helpful.” 

A few short weeks later, on Aug. 4, a healthy Elias came into the world at 8 pounds, 11 ounces and 20.5 inches long. 

“I did have a C-section, but not because of any risks associated with gestational diabetes,” Joanne wrote in an email to Molly following her delivery. “Elias is happy and healthy and at much lower risk because I followed your advice. He’s growing perfectly, and on top of that, eight days post-delivery I was already one pound under my pre-pregnancy weight. I had a plan that I could stick to, and I attribute my successes to those dietary guidelines.” 

Molly said Joanne was a great example of how lifestyle changes can make a big impact, even in a short amount of time. 

“Everyone is different, and there is no one size fits all approach, so we are always working to customize plans to each patient,” Koczarski said. “I absolutely love hearing success stories like Joanne’s. I always tell patients that I’m here to help educate and provide tools, but it is really the patient that does the work thereafter. It’s exciting to see the results.”

More about Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center

The Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center offers counseling for individuals with specific medical needs as well as those who wish to maintain optimal health. 

FirstHealth’s registered dietitians meet with people one on one to develop personalized nutrition plans, establish healthy eating and lifestyle goals and provide ongoing coaching and advice. To help manage diabetes, dietitians help patients focus on seven self-care behaviors that are important to focus on to be healthy and enjoy life: healthy eating, being active, monitoring, taking medication, problem-solving, healthy coping and reducing risks. 

Nutrition services are available for a range of needs, including: 

  • Elevated cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Digestive disorders
  • Celiac disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Food allergies

FirstHealth Diabetes and Nutrition Education offers services in Moore, Montgomery, Hoke and Richmond counties. To schedule an appointment or to learn more about our services, call (800) 364-0499 toll-free.