Tips For Coping With Diabetes In Pregnancy
What is Diabetes?
Up until two and a half years ago I had no idea what diabetes was. It didn't affect me or my family. To be honest it just wasn't something I thought about.
Then in 2013 at 20 weeks pregnant a random blood test showed that my blood sugar levels were high.
My GP ordered a glucose tolerance test (basically drinking Lucozade and seeing how the body responds). The result was sky high. I had gestational diabetes. Cue frantic Googling and a bit of a cry. I was told I needed to start injecting insulin before meals straight away. Cue an even bigger cry.
To make matters worse I had to prick my finger up to ten times a day to check my blood sugar reading. I also had to inject insulin into my baby bump four times a day.
Yes, into my baby bump. I hate needles.
Fast forward to today and I have given birth to two girls - Alice has just turned 2 and Lara is 8 weeks old.
Most of the time gestational diabetes goes away after the pregnancy. In my case (more unusually), I developed type 1 diabetes. My second pregnancy was classed as 'high risk', which meant a lot of extra appointments and scans. Type 1 is an autoimmune condition - my body has just stopped producing insulin. It's nothing to do with too much sugar or a bad diet; it's just bad luck.
When it comes to gestational diabetes and to those who have been told they have it, here are a few things that I found helpful:
See a dietitian. Ask for a one-on-one appointment and start keeping a food diary. I quickly realised carbs were my big problem as they break down into sugars. You shouldn't cut them out completely but you need to go easy and pick the right ones for you.
Test your blood sugar regularly. This gives you a clear picture of how your body is responding to different foods.
I hate needles. If you end up needing to inject insulin, it can be horrible at first but you quickly get used to it. Injecting into your stomach gets the insulin into your system faster. If you are struggling to inject, ask your GP for the smallest needle possible - I use a tiny 4mm needle and barely feel it now.
Understand that it's nothing you have done. You don't have gestational diabetes from eating too much sugar. That's not how diabetes works. It's just one of those things and most of the time it disappears when the baby is born.
Don't feel alone. Encourage your other half, family and friends to understand more about the condition - Diabetes UK www.diabetes.org.uk has lots of helpful tips and advice.
Eating out - I always try to look at the menu in advance and work out my carb options. Some restaurants like Pizza Express and Nando's include the carb values on their website which saves a lot of time and stress.
Always have a hypo kit with you. If your blood sugar goes too low (Under 4mmol/l) you are having a hypo. For me, this usually means feeling shaky and confused. I treat hypos with a small coke, wait 15 minutes and then test my blood sugar again.
Become your own expert. When pregnant (both times), I found some doctors and nurses were really clued up about diabetes, others (albeit very few) sort of shrugged it off. I decided I was going to understand as much as I could about it, so that if a medical decision was to be made, I could be part of the process.