Parenting with Type 1 Diabetes
Diabetes is a health condition close to both Katie and I. Katie has a brother with Type 1 and my husband Dom was diagnosed as a child. For this month’s blog, we thought we would chat to my husband, Dom, and Jo (Katie’s very good friend from NCT) about life as parents with Type 1 Diabetes.
Jo has two children. Here she tells us how her Type 1 affected the care she received for both Freddie and Georgie.
- How did you find out you were diabetic?
“I was diagnosed with Type 1 in 2016, my sister was diagnosed with hypothyroid”. An underactive thyroid, often occurs when the immune system (which usually fights infection) attacks the thyroid gland. It's also common in people with another immune system disorder, such as type 1 diabetes, NHS.
“I went for some tests. I had also been losing weight, getting terrible leg cramps, drinking a lot but failed to realise they were signs of diabetes”.
- How did pregnancy/labour affect your diabetes?
“Initially my diabetes did not have much of an impact on my pregnancy, however, you have to be much more careful with target bloody sugar levels, timing and frequency of testing. By the third trimester, this changes and my insulin requirements doubled, which was pretty unnerving”.
- How did your Type 1 affect your labour and the care you received?
“I was induced at 37 weeks due to an increased risk of still birth, I don’t think anyone with Type 1 can expect to go into labour naturally. I was supposed to be put on a sliding scale during labour to manage my diabetes (one drip sugar, one drip insulin) but had no time. Due to high blood sugar levels during Freddie’s labour, he ended up in special care for 36 hours after being born with low blood sugar”.
“As Georgie was breach, I had a c section at 37 weeks. Although this is deemed full term it is still early, and I was admitted to hospital two days prior to the c section to be given steroids to help Georgie's lungs”.
“Post birth insulin requirements drop back to pre pregnancy levels pretty quickly. However, breastfeeding reduces the amount of insulin needed so hypos (when your blood glucose level, also called blood sugar, is too low. This can make you feel shaky, irritable, blur vision, lack concentration and give you a headache). I had a funny one with Freddie, resulting in me walking out of hospital in my night gown looking for my nephew (who lives in Copenhagen) but I was better prepared with Georgie!”.
- Did you feel the NHS still give you control and choice over your choice of birth?
“It was quite a surprise to me with Freddie, how much the diabetes impacted things. I was strongly encouraged to have an induction, but I was also told that I could have a c section if that was what I really wanted.
I also pushed quite hard to be sure I made it to 37 weeks with both babies so they would be full term. I don’t know how much leeway there would have been with this if they hadn’t agreed with me or had I wanted to wait longer. I got the feeling that after a point it was not up for negotiation”.
- Have you found there to be any challenges with being a parent and being type 1?
“Finding the time to test as often as I should is definitely a challenge. Also actually giving myself the insulin can be tricky if Freddie and Georgie are demanding my attention!”.
- How did you find out you were diabetic?
“I was first diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic when I was 13 (which is a fairly common age to get diagnosed). I was living in Hong Kong at the time, Type 1 is rare in Asia. I spent a lot of time at hospital appointments with groups of about 20 medical students asking questions. As a 13 year old, I kind of enjoyed catching them out with questions as my limited knowledge was definitely better than theirs”.
- How has it impacted your diet and lifestyle?
“When I was younger it had a big impact on my energy levels, my blood sugar levels would swing significantly throughout the day. Looking back on it, this made studying much harder as it was so difficult to concentrate. I always had a fairly 'good' diet however large amounts of carbohydrates made it difficult to manage my insulin levels. In my mid-twenties, I got really into triathlon and cycling. I really loved the training and racing, completed probably around 20 races including several half and a full ironman. Then we had our wonderful daughter Ivy which meant all day cycling on the weekends was out of the picture! This whole time I was following a normal 'healthy' diet but to fuel for longer training and races I was using more and more carbohydrates. As a result, I managed to get pretty fit, however the energy swings left me tired and struggling to concentrate. I was lucky enough to have an amazing diabetic nurse, who recommended a book to me (Dr Bernstein’s, Diabetes Solution). This pretty much transformed my approach to my diet. I have moved to a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet. It is a tough diet to follow (think Atkins, no bread, pasta). However, my energy levels are so much more consistent and my average blood sugar (HBa1C) has dropped from 8.4 to 5.6, which is now considered within the range of a non- diabetic.
We live near Epping Forest now, therefore I've got more into trail running to keep fit, which seems to work well with the LCHF diet and take up less time away from the family”.
- How has it impacted your life as a parent?
“My blood sugars are much more stable now on the LCHF diet, however I do have to be more careful when I'm looking after Ivy by myself. I normally look after her on Monday's when Sarah is at work. I need to be even more careful (lots more checking blood sugar levels and really careful with what I eat) to ensure I do not have a hypo while trying to look after a toddler, which is a nightmare”.
Thanks for reading our blog. Nuttery Buttery donate 5% of our profits to JDRF, a charity committed to finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.