You were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when you were 17 Years of age. Today you are married and a pregnant. What if you were to go back in time, what message do you want to give the 17 year old you?
When I was 17 I was not only about to finish school and go to University but I was going to be able to legally drink alcohol and be an adult, making adult choices. So when I was diagnosed I felt like my world had come crashing down around me. All the frivolity and spontaneity of life seemed to dissipate before my eyes. However, now that I am nearly 29 and looking back, I wish I could have told myself that everything would be ok and work out, that I’d find an inner strength that I never knew I’d be able to have and that life is way too precious not to be taken with care and consideration.
As a pregnant mother and managing Type 1 diabetes, would you like to share the challenges you face daily?
Managing T1D is a full time job in itself, there are lots of challenges with being pregnant and having to balance the disease, but I try not to let them hinder my confidence and belief that everything will be ok. There are so many awful articles and websites out there to scaremonger diabetics (t1, t2 and gestational), but we all know the risk we carry and what will happen by having too many highs, so I try and just read the positives, as a healthy mind is also very important when pregnant. Some of the challenges I have faced so far have been:
•Hyperemesis Gravidarum: this was severe morning, noon and night sickness for the first 3.5 months of pregnancy. I was sick up to 40 times a day and it left me unable to eat or drink. Because of this I got high ketones (unrelated to diabetes and high blood glucose), my sugars were always hypo and I ended up in hospital a lot needing to be rehydrated and given anti sickness medication.
•Occasional high / low blood sugars and insulin resistance is also something I have experienced whilst pregnant but as I check my sugars so regularly I have never been high for long. For the majority of my pregnancy I have been mostly hypo and my HBA1C has been 4.0% which is too low! Fortunately hypos’ don’t affect the baby, but of course they are dangerous to the mother, so I am never far from a bottle of apple juice.
I haven’t found this yet, but have been told that insulin resistance is likely as the weeks progress and the baby gets bigger, so I might find that I start taking a lot more insulin. This doesn’t bother me at all, I just want to make sure that the baby’s safe!
Pre conception counselling is mandatory for all couples planning to conceive. Did you take the session before planning a baby?
Our pregnancy wasn’t entirely planned, but I had started taking the right steps in order to conceive, including talking to my endocrinologist and a gynaecologist. I was taking a high dose of folic acid, a preconception vitamin and I was following a low carb, high fat diet so that my sugars were good, my hba1c was 6.0% and I was in good health.
What insights were offered during your preconception counselling?
I didn’t have counselling, but my endocrinologist talked through them importance of having a healthy HBA1C, taking folic acid and being in good general health. I had my eyes checked and my kidneys checked. Being T1D pregnancy itself can’t really go unplanned, even though we hadn’t planned it to a T we had talked about it, I was in good control and I had had a full medical check so I knew that if I was to become pregnant then at least I was in a good place.
Insulin and Pregnancy. Many women fear the needle. A message for them.
I wear an insulin pump now, but for 7 years I also injected. Of course, putting anything in to your body is scary at first, but you are doing it for the health of you and your beautiful baby, and nothing is more precious than life itself. Try not to be scared, I find that taking a calm approach, pinching the skin gently and using a very short needle is the best way to avoid any pain or bruising.
How are you coping with cravings and pregnancy? Does it effect your blood glucose levels and let us have some tips to manage the same?
I am taking a very healthy approach to pregnancy, I don’t over indulge and I have been lucky not to have any cravings so far. I am not eating any more then I usually do and I’m checking my glucose levels very regularly just in case. For me eating a low carb diet really helps me to control my sugars, if I really do feel like something carby though I will be sensible and just have one tablespoon of rice or one piece of toast. I am trying to stay well balanced with lots of protein, green leafy vegetables, full fat dairy and nuts / seeds and fresh berries. There are so many lists about what you can and can’t eat but women haven been having babies for centuries without these lists so as long as you are sensible and take a healthy approach to what you put in your body then I don’t think there’s any reason to panic.
When socialising, how do you keep track of your blood glucose levels?
I check a lot! I spent way too many years hiding from the fact I had diabetes and pretending I was “normal” and could do exactly what every one else did. I carry my meter with me wherever I go and am not adverse to just pulling it out and checking. If people have a problem with that then they can look away, but I have never experienced anything but kindness and concern. Checking your blood sugar whilst pregnant is mandatory and the more you can do it the more you know your numbers are ok!
During pregnancy hypoglycaemia is a concern. Can you give some simple tips for other would be moms with diabetes?
Hypoglycaemia is inevitable whilst pregnant as you will find you go through periods of being very sensitive to insulin. I check very regularly though and find that this helps me to keep on top of my blood sugar going too low. I always carry juice boxes with me wherever I go and I will have my alarm on twice during the night (annoying, but for me mandatory) to check that sugars are ok.
What helps you stay grounded, calm and manage stress?
Yoga and lavender! I spray lavender on my pillow, have lavender oil in my bath and I carry a bag of dried lavender to sniff. I do yoga twice a week, which is a mixture of meditation and stretching, this helps me to refocus and relax solidly for an hour. My husband also helps me stay grounded as he’s there as a sounding board for any questions or anxieties I have. I also find a walk in the countryside helps to clear my mind, boost endorphins and keep my blood sugars stable.
Five things you never leave the house without.
•Blood sugar meter (which includes test strips, insulin, a new pump etc).
•Juice box (usually 2 or three, just in case).
•A card to say I am a Type One Diabetic and insulin dependent.
•My note book. I love keeping a diary of how I am feeling, any new recipe ideas I have and anything strange symptoms I’m feeling to ask my dr.
Who or what gives you strength?
My husband and my parents. They have been my rocks through this pregnancy and I definitely wouldn’t have got through it without them.
Will you think of having additional children?
So long as my health remains stable and the rest of my current pregnancy goes smoothly then I would love to have one or two more children. But for now I am just focusing on this moment and giving this baby the very best start in life. I am so excited!