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Guest Blog: Diabetics Have Healthy Babies All the Time

Baby advice for diabetics, brought to you by not-doctors. Thanks to Jessica Hickok for offering to guest post today (I'm still in Tucson with the fabulous Dr. Val).  Jessica wrote a post about something that is definitely on the forefront of my diabetes mind, namely diabetes and motherhood.   Jessica offers up her thoughts on her diabetes pregnancy and advice on managing all the emotions.

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Quoting a line from the movie “Steel Magnolias” for the title of this post seems only fitting when guest blogging about what it is like to have babies and type 1 diabetes. 

You see, I am type 1 and currently 31 years old.  When I was 22, my husband and I had been married 2 years and decided it was time to fulfill our dreams and have a baby.  And the biggest piece of advice I can give to everyone who has seen the movie “Steel Magnolias” … it is important to remember that life does not always imitate art.

We did the planning and really worked hard on keeping my blood sugars regulated.  We spoke to my doctor and with an HbA1c of 6.8% we were given the green light to have a baby. <insert cheesy, romantic interlude here>.

However, when I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I was both elated and scared at the same time.  I knew it was coming, but I immediately thought to myself “what if something goes wrong?” 

When other PWDs ask me about my child-birth experiences, I feel compelled to share my story and the following advice of what you can expect or should consider: 

1.    Do not let diabetes steal your thunder.
Be happy for yourself, you’re having a baby!  Just because you have a chronic condition, does not mean that you cannot enjoy the pregnancy and anticipation of motherhood.  Nor can you let your dreams be ruled by fear or guilt of your disease.  So you have to work a little harder at staying in a healthy glucose range, big deal, you’re going to do that anyway.

2.    Be comfortable with your doctor.
Being diabetic automatically puts you in a high-risk category.  However that doesn’t mean that you should lose sight of your basic rights as a patient.  Find a doctor that is comfortable with your disease and one that is willing to work with your diabetes doctor or endocrinologist. 

3.    Expect that your baby might be big. 
High sugars can spill over into the placenta feeding the baby and causing a large birth weight.  Both of my boys were born approximately 3 weeks early and the first one weighed 9lbs 12oz and my second was 10lbs 14oz.  No, I am not looking for a prize, but I do point that out just to prove that all of my complaining during pregnancy was justified.

4.    You may have to have a c-section.
C-setions aren’t bad, they just sound scary.  Yes, it will take you time to recover, but just think with your tightly controlled blood sugars that you had during pregnancy, your recovery time should go relatively quick. I had both of my babies delivered c-section and I wouldn’t trade it for the world…I did tell you that they were big babies, right?!

5.    Expect that your sugar readings will roller coaster after having the baby. 
While my hormones were bouncing around back into place the few weeks after having the baby, it caused my sugar readings bounce along with it.

6.    Diabetics have healthy babies all the time. 
Today, my first child is 8 years old and my second is 5 years old.  They are bright, healthy and so-far diabetes free. (knock on wood).  And the good news is that my story didn’t turn out at all like the one in Steel Magnolias.

I was lucky to have my insulin pump while I was pregnant.  And because there have been so many advances in diabetes technology (enter CGM!), I know that it has only become better and easier for PWDs to have children. 
The moment I held that precious newborn, my fears were all washed away.  For those amazing first moments of holding my new baby, I was not diabetic … I was a mother.

Disclosure from Jessica: Please keep in mind that this post is written purely based on my opinion and my personal experiences with pregnancy and childbirth.  I am not by any means a medical doctor.  Nor do I share my story as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor about your plans to have children.

Editor's note:  Thank you for posting today, Jessica!  There are guest blogger spots I'm looking to fill, so if you'd like to guest blog on SUM, email me!


I love this post!

I'm currently pregnant with #2 and even though my A1c was great with Noah {6.7 or lower the entire time}, he was still 10lbs 11oz at 35w5d... but he's a totally healthy 16 month old.

I'm looking very much forward to that post from you Kerri, where you announce it to the blogging-world!

Thank you so much for this post Jessica!! Thank you for saying what every diabetic woman out there (including me) needs to keep reminding themselves of over and over and over again. You can have a healthy pregnancy and baby and keep your diabetes in check the whole time. It may not be the traditional pregnancy and you will be considered "high-risk" simply by virtue of being diabetic, but it can and is done successfully, frequently. It won't be easy but exactly which part of motherhood is easy?? We need to stop feeling like we need permission to be mothers. We beat up on ourselves enough! Thanks again!

Didn't know you were traveling to Tucson. My wife and I go every year. Plan to move. You MUST try Cafe Poca Cosa for the very BEST mexican food anywhere.
We can go 3 times a week while there.

Just to add my two bits...I am Type 1 and had a baby at 30 years old - I had a baby girl, and like the other posts, she was big. She was 10 pounds, BUT (and not that I am bragging as I am unsure that a woman should actually brag about this) - I had her naturally with no complications...My doctors told me to expect a C section most likely as they already knew she was big, but I asked to atleast give it a try naturally (OK not that natural as I had an epidural)...Just be prepared for a more "medicalized" birth...those are my two bits....

Great post. I too am a PWD who has been through pregnancy. It DOES complicate things, but you can still do it.

One thing that I wanted to add is regarding breastfeeding. I don't know why NO ONE discussed this issue with me - seems like something common with PWD. Breastfeeding messes with your blood sugar. You are burning lots of extra calories doing it and should usually be ingesting more (unless you're trying to lose weight), not to mention the hormonal things going on, so of course, your insulin needs are going be changing. Maybe if I'd been on the pump then, it would have been different, but I had my first-ever really dangerous lows while I was trying to breastfeed. In hindsight, I should have been checking levels before, during and after most of the time.

Something to be aware of...

It's great to be able to read other people's experiences with T1 and pregnancy. I'm also at the point where my husband and I are looking forward to becoming pregnant and understand the whole roller-coaster of thoughts we spin through our brains about taking on this challenge. My debate is whether or not to go on the pump. I know everyone is so pro pump, but I'm on Lantus/Humalog with an A1c of 5.9% w/out any crazy lows. Anyone out there go through pregnancy without a pump, and still maintain your BGs/sanity?

Ironically, the last two days of lectures in my Metabolism and Endocrinology class in Med School have been centered around diabetes and pregnancy. I think I was starting to get on the Ob/Gyn Professor's nerves after a while with all my questions.

I can remember very clearly the first day my daughter started kindergarten - she had been diagnosed the previous year and believe it or not her being able to have kids was already on my list of things to worry about - one of the teachers there knew Nikki had T1 and made a point of walking over to me and telling point blank (and this is almost word for word about 6 years later) "I'm Mrs. Hensley,I have 2 kids and they are both grown, my daughter is married and has a daughter - I just wanted you to kow that both of my kids are type 1's; diagnosed at 12 months and the other at 2 years - I knew you would want to know that my daughter had a wonderful pregnancy and perfectly healthy little girl". I could have cried - I wish you all the blessings in the world and thanks for this very important post!

I, too, had two very healthy pregnancies with diabetes. Both were c-sections (which I was fine with. Diabetics make very, very poor candidates for emergency medical procedures, so it was better to have it happen on a non-emergent basis) and enjoyed some of the best A1cs ever while pregnant.

I also had two very healthy babies, neither of whom was large. My oldest was 8 pounds, 3 oz, my youngest, 5 pounds, 14 ounces.

If nothing else, being pregnant with diabetes gives you a serious excuse to focus intensely on your health. And that's never a bad thing!

Oh yes! Nancy is right... breastfeeding DOES mess with your BS!

Not only are you practically off insulin for a little while after birth {I was, for about five days at least... and was STILL experiencing lows!}, but if you are breastfeeding, you are at even more risk of going low. Thank goodness for my CGMS! Next to the rocking chair I kept a basket of snacks... and for those first few months, every time Noah ate, I drank a juice or had a granola bar too. It was my husband's job to keep it fully stocked, since he couldn't feed Noah. :) {And I still lost all the baby weight by one month out!} Once he was more on a "schedule", I was able to adjust my basal accordingly. We actually just stopped bfing a couple of weeks ago. I kept going longer than the reccomended year {by the AAP} because bfing is said to lower his risk of acquiring diabetes... even if it doesn't, it was worth it to me to continue in hopes that it does. And I'm hoping to do the same with this Little One.

I have been a Type 1 for 17 years and I am 13 weeks pregnant with my 1st. I had decent A1Cs, below 7, and was on humalog and lantus until about a week ago. I was advised that life would be easier, not only being pregnant but as a mom, if I were on the pump. I really fought it for years but decided to give it a try if this is what was recommended, plus I have more motivation now that I am pregnant. It has really been hard to get used to after injections for 17 years though I am hoping that I will become settled with the it soon. For now it is a big learning curve for sure. The things I like about it thus far are if we are out at a restaurant or with friends I don't have to excuse myself to give insulin, it is right there on the pump, also I have the CGMS which is helpful too. This is a journey for sure...which I know is good practice for what is ahead.

You should talk to Elizabeth from DD at CWD (I think you both are planning to be there). From her blog, it sounds like she had a great pregnancy, normal birth, and a healthy 6 lb baby. :)

Great post! I am going to turn 35 this year. I have put off having a baby due to fear and anxiety about the pregnancy. It's so funny that you mention Steel Magnolia's because the ending of that movie has traumatized me beyond belief. You would think that after 30 years of type 1 and virtually no side effects I would get over it already. Fear is a powerful thing, so I really appreciate your real life tips. Thanks!

The author hit the nail on every one of them. My first pregnancy was GD and the second pregnancy was type 1.5 (LADA)

One thing to add..before got pregnant with our second. We grilled our endo with questions like what if high numbers etc. out of our control.

She said we will be in great hands. And if high numbers 24 hours/7 days ongoing for two or three weeks, MAY start have start of problems.

So every time I had a high number out of my control during pregnancy. I would remember the endo's words.

I just gave my birth to my 3rd healthy child. Yes, they were all large. I fought it, thought I failed at my diabetes care, b/c they were big...but no, my a1c's were 5.1, 5.4, 5.9...My kids are perfectly healthy and I know i could not have done better. As with much of my diabetes care, I tend to look at the bright side of things...we get to watch our babies grow inside of us a LOT closer than "normal" pregnancies, being high risk. I'd take someone watching me close ANY day, over the unknown.....for this, I am thankful!

I disagree with the poster who says C-setions aren’t bad, they just sound scary. I have Type I and had a c-section in October of 2008. It didn't just sound scary, it was scary. Think about being awake during this surgery and I think you can figure out why that would be scary. When the doctor and I decided to have the c-section, I was totally fine with it but the experience was not a good one for me because I was scared during it and I was at a very good hospital in Boston, MA. My recovery was easy though. Hopefully, if I need a c-section again, it will be easier because I've been through it.

Hi I am 26 years old and I am 28 weeks pregnant with our second child.I have type II diabeties and I enjoyed reading your stories and comments they were really helpful! I was so worried will I have a healthy baby but here is the answer! I have had two A1CS done one was 5.2 and the other was 4.7. Thank you so much for easing my mind!

My perfectly healthy baby boy is 3 months old he was 3 weeks early and 9 1/2lbs. I've been diabetic for 24years, and went on the pump 1 month before getting pregnant. My tips: the pump was fantastic for me but not necessary, bfing definately messes with BSLs for the first month at least, apparently diabetic mums milk supply takes longer to come in-though not mine!, my C-section was very scary and I had ongoing pain issues for 8 weeks but am ok now, the regular CTGs at the end are anxiety provoking but reassuring, and lastly pay close attention to your insulin requirements if you stop being more resistent and suddenly start needing less toward the end be very suspicious as your placenta may be changing and we are at higher risk of stillbirth in the last 2 weeks. This is why I had my baby so early. It's all worth it

we are planning for a baby and when we consulted the doctor ,we found out that my HbA1c was 4.7 ,the doc told me that if i maintain my hda1c at 4.7 i would not get pregnant ,please help .

I love this! I have been type 1 for 16 yrs. I just had my second baby! both of my babys were a norm birth weight and my pregnancies were smooth with no problems. However my daughter was born with low bs and she was given a bottle imediently after she was born and was totally fine afterwrds. my son was born with a normal bs of 75 and droped down to 18 1hr after birth and was amitted in nicu for 2 days to stabalize his bs. He is fine now and breastfeeding with no problems. but it is very common for the baby bs to drop after birth and should always be given a bottle after delivery just to be safe. the nurse I had in the delivery room was not to familar with babys born to diabetic mothers so it is very important for you girls to be aware of this and to make sure the nurse you have is familar with this possible complications for the baby. other than that my little guy is perfectly healthy.and my girl who is 6 now is too!:) best wishes for all of you moma's and god bless!

Hello. I'm 28 and a type one diabetic. I was only diagnosed about six months ago but through a lot of hard work (and testing strips!) I managed to get my HBA1C from 12 down to 6.7, getting the green light from the docs to try for a baby. After trying for the first time (!) I got a positive test yesterday! We were elated but I am so worried about everything. Will I miscarry? Will the baby be okay if I don't? Will I have a still birth? Will I cope with being a diabetic while pregnant when I'm only really just getting used to being a diabetic full stop? It's so daunting! Any advice at all will be appreciated.

Iam pregnant going 8 months been a diabetic type two for 15 years i have a seventeen year old boy i never used birth control and never would come out pregnant and now that that iam 36 years came out pregnant at my first visit to the doctor when i found out i was pregnant everything that they tolled me was negative they did not tell not one positive thing about my pregnancy the next week i was thinking to go have an abortion i was tolled that at the visit that i can have deform baby that i could have a mis carriage at any moment that he can be born with diabetis but i thought about it alot about having the abortion and i dont know if i took my baby life away if he would be a healthy baby only god knows so i decided to have him i still have the possibility of him being born dead but i have been paying attention that he moves everyday i just ask god to take care of us at the time of birth and to give me a healthy baby my fear is to have a sick baby that will suffer or deform i just dont want him to suffer i can just wait and ask go to help me and let everything come out ok

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