Pregnancy and emotional health, for women with type 1 diabetes
Becoming a mother is one of the most memorable moments in a woman’s life. For women with diabetes, pregnancy also involves a lot of planning, preparation and hard work.
It’s not surprising that women with diabetes sometimes feel worried, stressed, anxious and uncertain during pregnancy and once the baby is born. These feelings are very normal and may come and go at different stages of your pregnancy.
It can also be a time in your life when you feel very motivated and empowered to take care of yourself. It is really about finding a balance between the responsibilities of taking care of your diabetes and your unborn baby and enjoying this special time in your life.
Many women with diabetes describe a number of challenges before, during and after pregnancy which can impact on their emotional health.
Achieving and maintaining blood glucose targets
This is probably the most challenging aspect of managing your diabetes while pregnant. While you may have felt ‘in control’ of your diabetes before, you may find that this all changes once you are pregnant. Even if you follow your health professionals advice, you may still have variations in your blood glucose levels. You may feel that your health professionals do not always acknowledge how much effort you have put in and the frustration it causes. It may feel like the emphasis on blood glucose levels takes away from the positive experience of expecting a baby and what it means for you to become a mum. Seek out health professionals that you are comfortable with and who provide you with the support that you need.
If you are finding it too hard to achieve your recommended blood glucose targets, talk to your doctor or diabetes educator/diabetes nurse practitioner and discuss realistic goals for you and how you can achieve them.
Worrying about your baby’s health
It is very normal to worry about whether or not you will have a healthy baby. Find a health professional you feel comfortable with so you can openly discuss these concerns with them. Find out as much as you can about how to minimise the risk of problems during pregnancy. The support of women with diabetes who have recently become mothers can also be helpful at this time. Remember that most women with diabetes will have a healthy baby.
Preventing and managing hypos
Frequent and sometimes severe hypos can be a problem, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy. This can be very stressful, particularly if your usual hypo signs and symptoms change.
Frequent blood glucose checks to pick up hypos early and appropriate insulin adjustments can help reduce this risk. Your partner or family members can also help you recognise the signs of a hypo and be trained on how to administer glucagon if needed.
Managing the concerns of well-meaning partners, friends or family members
Your partner, friends or family members may worry more than usual about you at this time. You may feel that they are constantly watching you and that you are being judged about how you are managing your diabetes.
While they may mean well, it is important to let your loved ones know how this makes you feel. Talk about how they could support you, what is helpful and what is not. Reassure them that you are taking care of your diabetes, but that it is not always easy. You could consider inviting them to be involved in your diabetes and pregnancy care so that they better understand your diabetes management, worry less and give you the support you need.
Taking your baby home is an exciting time and a new chapter in your life. While you may have felt that there was a lot of support available while you were pregnant, many women feel ‘abandoned’ at this time. You may be uncertain about things such as how to care for your baby, breastfeeding or changes to blood glucose levels and insulin requirements.
There is support available from child and family health nurses, lactation consultants and your diabetes health professionals. Before going home, talk to your health professionals about what kind of support is available to you and have a plan in place for accessing support services.