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.
Some say pregnancy is a wonderful time when you get that special glow and you feel whole with life growing within you. I have also heard it called the worst experience known to woman. When it comes to being pregnant and having type 1 diabetes, I tend to agree with the second camp.
Don’t get me wrong; there are some wonderful parts of pregnancy. But when it comes to diabetes management, there are also some struggles. Nothing that can’t be overcome of course, but strict diabetes control has to become a priority during your pregnancy if you want to enjoy it in the least and avoid the scary complications you've heard of.
My Experience as a Pregnant Diabetic: What to Watch Out for
The following advice comes from just my point of view and experience. Each pregnancy is different and everyone’s body will react to pregnancy differently —much like everyone’s body reacts to diabetes differently. So make sure to do your research and work with your doctors to find the most comfortable treatment throughout your pregnancy. I'm sharing the following information as an insight into the ongoing changes I've needed in my daily diabetes treatment beyond the general advice I heard from books and other medical sources.
The first and most important thing to realize is that you will need frequent adjustments to your diet and insulin distribution. Not only will you need to adjust your insulin due to morning sickness and lack of appetite, but also due to your body working overtime to create a baby. I was warned I would experience insulin resistance later on in my pregnancy, but no one warned me that I would experience dangerous lows during the first trimester. This became an even scarier realization when I discovered I couldn’t feel when my blood sugar levels were dropping. I was diagnosed with diabetes as a child so I have learned to feel what my body is doing and for the most part if my blood sugar levels are high or low. During pregnancy that all went out the window. For the most part, during pregnancy I feel like my blood sugar is high all of the time.
The doctors warn you throughout your pregnancy about insulin resistance, but I never really realized the extent of resistance the body could have. My body started to resist insulin sometime during my second trimester. By the time I delivered I was using three times the amount of insulin I normally would. Not only was my body resisting the insulin, but it also overreacted to almost everything I ate that had any carbs in it. My diet became fairly bland, which is the last thing you want to worry about when you get those crazy pregnancy cravings. You don’t realize how torturous that is until the only thing that sounds good is a gallon of ice cream or a bag of chips. Another weird pregnancy symptom I had was the constant munchies. I had to get really creative with my snacks so that I wouldn’t consume very many carbs, but was still able to munch pretty much nonstop.
The Bright Side of Pregnancy and Diabetes
On the plus side, as a woman with diabetes, you can likely be grateful for the extra attention and care your doctors take to keep you healthy throughout your pregnancy. I thought I would be annoyed with all of the extra doctor appointments with both my OB and my Endocrinologist, but I ended up being very glad I had so many people taking care of me when it was hard to tell what was going on in my body. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for help if you start getting overwhelmed with your diabetes care or pregnancy in general. They are there to help you have a smooth and healthy pregnancy.
It's true there are some frustrating and scary aspects to dealing with type 1 diabetes during pregnancy, but overall, it can still be a wonderful experience if you take the time to take care of yourself and be very vigilant when it comes to diabetes management. We live in a great day and age when women living with diabetes can have healthy pregnancies and births. Not many years ago, doctors recommended that women with type 1 diabetes not have children due to how dangerous it was. So take a moment and instead of getting so frustrated with the changes your body is going through, think about what technology can provide to make your pregnancy and birth safe and comfortable.