For the last four months, I’ve been hesitant to “go public” about my pregnancy. As a woman who’s lived with type 1 diabetes for 24 years (and, at 35, technically of “advanced maternal age”), I am over the moon happy that my husband and I are expecting our first bundle of joy around Halloween. I’m thrilled I shall soon experience the joys of motherhood. It certainly wasn’t a given, but I'm well into the second trimester and everything is progressing well.
Having experienced the devastating loss that accompanies miscarriage, I lived in fear for a long time that I would be unable to experience the joys, struggles, and life-altering experiences that motherhood inevitably brings. I was afraid to write about it publicly for a long time. But diabetes care has advanced greatly over the last few decades, and I am optimistic that I can and will have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby when all is said and done.
I know it is possible. I’ve witnessed it first-hand three times with my identical twin sister who also has type 1diabetes. Watching her navigate three diabetic pregnancies before my own has helped me tremendously. But not everyone has a family member with type 1 diabetes to look to when pregnant and managing their diabetes.
You hear a lot of doom and gloom stories and there are more than enough warnings and fear-based assumptions that accompany the news that one is expecting and is a type 1 diabetic, but there are, slowly and surely, just as many happy, successful baby stories being brought to the fore by people just like you and me: women who just happen to be diabetic and pregnant. It’s becoming more and more known that women with diabetes can—and more often than not—do have healthy babies, especially when said women are determined and dedicated to managing blood sugars and doing the consistent hard work required of a healthy diabetic pregnancy.
The following five resources have proven to be quite useful, thus far, and feel like essential parts of my pregnancy with diabetes. If you’re pregnant and diabetic, I encourage you to check them out:
1. Blogs by diabetic women who’ve been there
I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any other pregnant women who have type 1 diabetes “in real life,” but I feel like I know many who have gone before me. There are many helpful, encouraging, and honest blog posts out there written as diabetic women navigated the murky waters of pregnancy. I’m currently making my way through Kerri’s posts and re-reading our very own Kelsey Bonilla’s great posts on type 1 diabetes and pregnancy right here at HealthCentral, and including Cheryl Alkon's blog (author of Balancing Pregnancy with Pre-existing Diabetes--another resource I highly recommend). There are many others. I'll be regularly chronicling my pregnancy here as well.
2. Support Groups
While I wish my small town had an in-person support group for diabetic mommy’s-to-be, we don’t. It’s something I’d like to change, but in the meantime, I belong to an online support group through Yahoo Groups that allows me to vent and post my questions and offer my advice, encouragement, and experiences (positivediabeticpregnancies). I often get immediate responses to my questions or concerns, and the support to be found there is priceless. Some groups are more active than others, but this one has daily activity.
3. A therapist who specializes in diabetes
Although the subject of therapy or counseling can sometimes be taboo, I’m open about the fact that I see a therapist who has type 1 diabetes because of how wonderful it has been to work with someone who “gets it.” It has been a huge help and a very welcomed blessing in my life. While my current therapist didn’t advertise herself as a therapist specializing in diabetes, there are therapists out there who do, and who specialize in working with clients dealing with diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Knowing I’m working with someone who’s been through her own diabetic pregnancy and is able to listen with empathy, understanding and offer therapeutic advice alongside practical tips has been a real lifesaver.
There are some therapists out there who work remotely with diabetic clients (via phone, Skype, online) in addition to face-to-face sessions. It’s the first time I’ve worked with a therapist who not only has a strong background in counseling and mental health, but also has firsthand experience as a type 1 diabetic and therapist to those living with diabetes, and it is helping me deal with my fears, stressors, and issues in a way that is most welcome and helpful to me as a diabetic, a woman, and a mommy-to-be.
4. An Insulin Pump
As a pregnant mother-to-be with this disease, I feel very blessed to not be limited to multiple daily injections. While an insulin pump may not be for everybody, managing diabetes well during pregnancy is less of a guessing game with an insulin-pump. Not only does my glucometer now send the results directly to my pump, but it reminds me how much insulin is on-board (from previous boluses and basal rates), and I’m able to fine-tune my insulin needs in a way I never could on multiple injections alone.
With the newest model pump, I can now make even smaller incremental changes (0.05 unit adjustments on basal rates and bolus calculations) and change the amount of insulin I receive, whether through adjusting my insulin-to-carb ratio (for example, my ratio nearly doubles in the morning when bloodsugars are particularly resistant to insulin) or through tweaking the baseline insulin I receive (avoiding pesky lows at night and after working out and avoiding some of the dawn phenomenon I experience in the wee hours of the morning). If there were only one of the five resources I could keep in my toolbox, it would be my insulin pump.
5. A CGM
While I am new to the world of continuous glucose-monitors, this little device has helped me make sense of my numbers. Even though I’m testing my bloodsugar 10-15 times a day (I’ve been known to test 20 times on particularly wonky days), I can’t always tell which way my sugars are headed and if it’s safe to exercise, for example. I’m writing everything down and looking for trends, but it’s a lot easier when I use the CGM to track trends and spot patterns. There is a bit of a learning curve, and to be honest, I’m still on said learning curve (having started the CGM this week), but I am very optimistic that the data the CGM is revealing to me and my health care team will conspire to protect me and baby from unnecessary swings and dangerously bad reactions. It’s a bit of a pain right now, but it’s a pain that is worth it to me. In short, the pros outweigh the cons, especially during pregnancy.
I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list as the weeks go on, but for now, these five things are my lifelines. I want to look back and know I did everything I could to ensure the health and well-being of my baby and myself. I’m also growing tired of the label of “high risk diabetic mother,” but I’m determined to prove to myself, my doctors, and the world that I can have a happy, healthy pregnancy, a happy, healthy baby, and be a happy, healthy mommy not despite diabetes, but in large part because of it.
I know that my (hyper-)vigilance, diligent self-care, and health is positively impacted by the knowledge that I have type 1 diabetes and am working extra hard to keep baby and self healthy. Instead of seeing it as a disadvantage, I choose to see it as motivator and another tool enabling me to keep on top of things and live the healthiest life possible, both before and after baby arrives.
What resources and tools are helping (or helped) you during your pregnancy?
Published On: May 29, 2013