Jeanette Terry was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 11 years old, and she has since lived with diabetes through difficult life transitions, including the teenage years, college, and having children. She addresses the day-to-day struggles of living with diabetes—going beyond medical advice—to improve overall adherence and management.
Life with type 1 diabetes comes with some challenges, but over time, they normally become manageable and you can maintain stability. But add pregnancy to the mix and you can throw everything you thought you knew about diabetes out the window because you are in for a roller coaster ride whether you like it or not.
Pregnancy adds a whole new set of challenges in diabetes management for women living with type 1 diabetes.
As pregnancy progresses, it can become increasingly harder to manage diabetes on a daily basis; there is a reason your doctor recommends more frequent visits while pregnant. Some of the regular challenges you may already face will be enhanced, such as blood sugar fluctuation due to morning sickness and cravings that may lead you to want unhealthy foods more often than normal.
There are other challenges that are unique to pregnancy and diabetes that you may not expect—brace yourself for them. The changes include hormone fluctuations that can affect blood sugar, unexplainable blood sugar drops early in pregnancy, a general sense of sickness that prevents you from being able to feel low and high blood sugar, and by far the worst is the insulin resistance that sets in toward the end of the pregnancy. It might feel as though the closer you get to delivery, the more your body can’t keep up and your body’s systems stop working the way they should.
You have to do what works best for you personally to stay as healthy as you can and feel as good as you can during the pregnancy. The solution you find may not fit into what would be considered good diabetes care, but if it helps you make it through, then by all means keep doing it.
It’s okay to improvise in order to make it through the nine months. The most important thing to remember is that there is a little person who needs you in the very near future, and if you let everything go, you will not be in good enough health to care for your new bundle of joy.
Here are five suggestions that I found helpful in keeping my sanity and the best health I can through pregnancy.
1. You’re going to feel sick
Just accept the fact that you are going to feel crummy. Don’t get down on yourself thinking that it is because of bad diabetes management. Just try to make yourself as comfortable as you can and look forward to the time you will not be pregnant anymore.
2. Avoid eating unhealthy foods
Find a vice that can replace the habit of eating unhealthy foods. If you are like me, when you are uncomfortable or down it seems that eating more food will make you feel better. When I’m pregnant, I find that if I munch on something it takes the edge off of feeling uncomfortable, but I have to be careful to not munch on certain foods because of insulin resistance. The more sweets I eat, the more insulin I have to give and the more resistance my body has, so ultimately I feel worse overall.
Find something you can munch on that won’t drastically affect your blood sugar but will still satisfy the need to eat something. Foods that have worked for me are pretzels, ice, and celery.
3. Stay strong
Stay mentally strong. During the last month or so of pregnancy, insulin resistance prevents you from having a wide variety of foods without experiencing blood sugar spikes. Not being able to eat foods you love, especially when you don’t feel great to start with, can really be a downer. But if you hold out just a few more weeks, then you can reward yourself after the baby comes with a few splurges.
4. Get some rest
It is hard to get enough rest, but the more rest you can get, the stronger you can stay mentally. You will be quite busy once you have your baby, so even though you just feel like sitting at home on the couch, get out and do something that you enjoy even if it’s just something small.
5. Remember the end game
You won’t be pregnant forever, and this is just a short period of time. Also, try to remember what you are doing this for: you have grown a human inside of you and very soon you will get to meet that little person. The best gift you can give to your baby is to be as healthy as you can, both physically, and more importantly, mentally.