Understanding the journey of pregnancy for women with type 1 diabetes

Helen-Edwards Diabetes and Pregnancy 9 Comments

I wrote this post a while ago when I was starting my PhD. Having just had some time out and starting back, I decided to refresh the post, because I think understanding the journey of pregnancy for women with type 1 diabetes is so very important. So important that it is the topic of my PhD.

The topic of my research is looking at the pregnancy journey and in particular, diabetes distress and depression for women with type 1 diabetes during pregnancy and the post natal period. As a woman with type 1 diabetes who has had 3 babies and 4 pregnancies, I hold this topic most dear to my heart. I have my own experiences, but I want to understand what this is like for others.

I was told as a 12 year old girl that I may never have babies and that if I did they may be deformed, large, troubled at birth and worst of all, still born. I have heard many other women over the years talk about similar experiences.

Some of the questions I want others to understand are what is it like to be a woman with diabetes who does not “plan” her pregnancy and has to go and tell the health care team that? To see their faces sitting in judgement of this lack of thought about pregnancy? To feel the anxiety increase as you embark upon the most important journey of your life?

What is is like to go through 9 months of sudden hypos, swinging highs, knowing every piece of food you put in your mouth may not just nurture your growing child but may cause damage as the blood glucose levels react? To feel each time you see a result on the BGM that this is not about just about you anymore, it is about your baby. For the growing child inside of you to become attached to the numbers on that machine? To wait to see scans and tests showing if your baby is growing ok or not? To be poked, prodded, weighed, measured, pricked, tested, judged…….

What it is like to be stuck between being a mum to be and a person with diabetes?  To want desperately to linger and luxuriate in the pleasure of pregnancy, but want it to hurry as fast as possible to get through this time? To have less control over your birth choice? To have your baby taken to a special care nursery with low blood glucose levels and feel like this was your fault? To try and breastfeed when your milk is slow to come in and the nurses want to give you baby a bottle but you really don’t want to do this? To go home after intense medical support, to none?

What is it like as a new mum to have diabetes that is so out of control you sit and cry, with a baby that you do not know how to care for yet so you sit and cry, the lack of sleep and constant struggle to stay awake making your health suffer, so you sit and cry, realising the reality that trying to have a good diabetes routine with a new baby is impossible – so you sit and cry.

Does the increased distress of managing diabetes during all of this lead to a higher chance of post natal depression? And even less studied  – how about the next year or so? How does a woman with diabetes manage her own health and the first year of her child’s life? What is it like to be a Mum and a person with diabetes? How do you handle a hypo with a screaming baby?

These things and more are what I want to take time to look at and explore. I have already discovered in my first part of the research that women go through a journey that is both similar and different to those who don’t have diabetes, that there are particular things that help, and those that don’t.

You can read my first paper about the research here.


I am hoping that as I return to this research that at the end of it we can find some ways to make this amazing, special, scary and beautiful time in the life of a woman with diabetes more about her journey as a Mum, and less about her journey as a woman who happens to have type 1 diabetes.

Are you a woman with diabetes who has been through pregnancy? I would love to hear about your experiences so please share in the comments




Comments 9

  1. So very well written by someone who understands the battle we face! As a woman who is 6 months pregnant and also a T1 I have sent this blog to those closest to me in the hope they may understand a little better. thanks !

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  2. … or, with a new bubba who just passed the 12 week mark, a post and idea for research so close to your heart and full of honest understanding that you sit and cry!

    Thanks Helen, and very best of luck with the research =)

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      thanks Cass – congrats on the new baby! I am excited as am narrowing down that it is likely to focus on type 1 diabetes and the course of diabetes related distress from pregnancy into the first 6-12 months of new motherhood (which nobody really looks at), so thinking I will be very connected and love the process. Good luck with learning about your new little person 🙂

  3. Very beautifully and honestly written! It’s as though you were in my head! These were, and still are, the questions I think about…. thank you for bringing them to light, and for assuring me that I am not alone in these thoughts 🙂

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  4. Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other sites?
    I have a blog based on the same subjects you discuss and would really like to have you
    share some stories/information. I know my subscribers would enjoy
    your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

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      Hi there, yes we have a couple of e books in the works! They will be out soon and also happy to guest author 🙂 let me know if you would like that, thank you for visiting and taking time to comment 🙂

  5. Thank you for the work you’re doing in this area Helen. I just wish this kind
    of information was available to me when I had my child 14 years ago.
    It’s also the ongoing fear that perhaps those less than perfect numbers
    will effect your child in the longer term. Will he be at greater risk of
    metabolic disorders himself? Who knows, but it does play on your mind
    when you love them so much. <3

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