The Positive Aspects of a Diabetic Pregnancy
Pregnancy Tracker: 18 weeks, 2 days
Size of the Baby: About 6 inches long and 8.5 ounces
Biggest Obstacle: The frustration of insulin resistance!
For many years women with type 1 diabetes were discouraged from having children and scared away from the possibility with films like Steel Magnolias (which happens to be one of my favorite movies, even though it is quite dated on diabetes information!) Before the era of intensive diabetes management, home glucose monitoring, and insulin pump therapy, the risk for diabetic moms and their babies was great. Luckily, today thousands of women have had successful, healthy pregnancies complicated by type 1 diabetes. Thus, I was certainly encouraged to join their ranks and begin the journey of pregnancy myself.
Ironically, whereas women with preexisting diabetes and pregnancy didn't mix for many years, I have found that in several ways, having diabetes can be constructive during pregnancy.
First of all, in some ways having diabetes prepares one for the daily eating struggles of pregnancy. I experienced mild to moderate morning sickness (which we all know is a misnomer, it lasts all day!) However, since I was used to eating about six mini-meals per day, I was able to snack on a little something every three hours to stave off the worse of pregnancy nausea. Eating small amounts often is also a great way to manage blood sugars and diabetes, so my morning sickness management system had many benefits.
Diabetics tend to want to feel in control. Our constant struggle is to achieve steady blood sugars, and when we do, we're considered "in control." Pregnancy could make one feel somewhat out of control. All of these changes are happening to your body, though it's difficult to discern if everything is okay. Both non-diabetic and diabetic women can eat healthfully, exercise regularly, and take their vitamins in order to help ensure the health of their baby. However, diabetic women have a much more complex responsibility that directly affects their child's health: good blood glucose control. While this can feel like an overwhelming task, it is also tremendously rewarding to know that you've done your part to keep your baby safe throughout the pregnancy.
It may seem like a minor thing, but one perk of having a high risk pregnancy is all the great ultrasound pictures we accumulated. We feel like we're having the most photographed baby! My non-diabetic friends with children have expressed envy at our growing photo album of ultrasound pictures. They are a nice treat to being so carefully monitored. I recently read in one pregnancy book that women with low-risk pregnancies often do not have their first ultrasound until 20 weeks. I was shocked -- here I am, 18 weeks along, and I've already had six! My husband and I have grown so accustomed to getting more pictures of our baby, that he completely forgot to ask to see the pictures I received at my last appointment, and I didn't remember to share them with him! While we've begun to take all of the photos for granted, it is very reassuring to see the baby and the strong heartbeat at each and every doctor's appointment.
Generally, women with preexisting diabetes are quite familiar with medical processes and procedures, thus the multiple blood draws, screenings, hospital visits, urine tests, and physical prodding don't phase us as they might other pregnant women. Whereas a high-risk pregnancy includes many more doctor's appointments, medical tests, and basic health maintenance, pregnant women with preexisting diabetes also receive a tremendous amount of support and quality medical treatment. Our care is highly specialized, and for that reason alone, our health and well-being demand a lot of attention.
Finally, the time and energy it requires to have a healthy diabetic pregnancy means that diabetic mothers are used to making difficult decisions and prioritizing their actions for the health of their children. I believe this will translate to being a mindful, responsible, and compassionate mother once the little one arrives!