‘5 things I wish I’d known about being pregnant and living with T1D’
This blog post was written by Laura Hill, a T1D community member, JDRF staff member and mum to baby Ivy.
I thought I had a great handle on my type 1 diabetes (T1D) management before falling pregnant. I assumed this meant I was all set for a safe and relatively easy pregnancy and birth. Little did I know that I was in for a steep T1D learning curve … again.
Here are five things I wish I’d known when planning my pregnancy while living with T1D.
1. Everything you know about your T1D management may change
As I said, I thought my T1D management wasn’t going to be an issue – after all, I’d had it all sorted before I fell pregnant. But it seemed that as soon as those two lines appeared on the pregnancy test, everything I knew and did to manage my T1D was thrown out the window.
I had to continuously (we are talking daily!) adjust my pre-bolusing timing, insulin rates, exercise schedule and carb consumption to manage my T1D and account for all the changes my body was going through.
Even with this tight management, my blood glucose levels (BGLs) did crazy and unexplainable things. Luckily, I had a committed and supportive diabetes team to help me through it. On top of everything pregnancy related, T1D management can really wear you down.
Remember, it’s impossible to be perfect and stress/anxiety will only make things worse mentally and physically. Be kind to yourself as much as possible, go with the flow and reach out to your diabetes team if you are feeling drained, stressed, or worried.
To learn more about pregnancy and birth while living with T1D, download Straight to the point: A guide for adults living with type 1 diabetes. The guide covers practical advice on women’s issues like menstruation, contraception, sexuality, pregnancy and birth.
2. Pregnancy can change your low BGL symptoms
I found out the hard way that pregnancy can cause your usual symptoms of a low BGL to change or feel different. In the past, I would often distinguish a low BSL through my usual symptoms of shakiness and lack of energy. However, when I was 14 weeks pregnant I experienced a low blood sugar completely out of the blue when driving home from a medical appointment.
The only warning sign? A sudden onset of severe nausea, something I haven’t experienced when low before. Luckily I had my CGM to alert me! I later found out that it is not unusual to experience a change in your usual low BGL symptoms when pregnant, and these can change throughout trimesters.
3. Google is NOT your friend
Do NOT Google any of your weird and wonderful symptoms of pregnancy. Otherwise, it will lead you down a rabbit hole that only causes further anxiety. I wish I had known to avoid Google, especially in the beginning of pregnancy.
There are several handy and trustworthy resources that can be accessed to find out about T1D and pregnancy. The most reliable resource I found was the NDSS ‘Planning a Pregnancy Guide’.
4. You are your own biggest advocate
One thing I learnt through my pregnancy journey is that everyone believes they are an expert on you/your body/your baby/your diabetes. In fact, you are the most knowledgeable and the best expert on all these things. I found that everyone will share their opinion on what they think is best for you, but trust your own intuition, do your own research, and ask lots of questions!
If something doesn’t feel right, speak up! I learnt that its most reassuring to ask for more information (such as the benefits, risks, alternatives) so you can make the most informed decision for you and your baby.
5. Trust and love your body
Its easy to feel like our bodies have failed us when we live with T1D. The ups and downs of managing the condition during pregnancy meant it was very easy for me to lose sight of what my body is capable of. I was anxious to fall pregnant out of fear my body would fail me or my future baby. However, my pregnancy and T1D journey led me to a newfound love for my body and what it is capable of.
It grew and gave life to the cutest little baby. It has successfully nourished her and provided her with all she needs to thrive in this crazy world, all whilst I managed the hurdles of T1D and pregnancy – how COOL is that! Whilst my body may not produce insulin anymore, it sure as hell does so many other amazing things that I am so very proud of.
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