Diabetes and Babies: Special Report.
How do you know when you’re a woman with diabetes? When you start thinking about babies even before you’re engaged. Although I’m years away from settling down and popping out babies, I have decided it is in my best interest to be as proactive as possible in preparing for pregnancy and motherhood. Part of that is reading everything I can get my hand’s on.
I was excited to find out that Cheryl Alkon, a long-time diabetes blogger at Managing the Sweetness Within, had finally published her long-awaited book, Balancing Pregnancy with Pre-existing Diabetes: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby. Reading the book and seeing all the wonderful tips and examples from real world moms continues to give me confidence that I will have enough tools to see a pregnancy through to the end.
Through ACT1 Diabetes, the local women’s support group year in New York City, I also had an opportunity to finally meet Cheryl when she appeared at an event at New York University last Thursday.
The women who gathered to speak were at all different stages in life. There were young women who are prospective mothers, perhaps still single or dating. There were women who are engaged or married, who are actively working on preparing their body for baby. Then there were women who have “been there,” some of them friends of Cheryl, or who are currently pregnant.
Cheryl started off by explaining why she wrote her book. She said that when she was preparing for pregnancy, she looked for informative resources that weren’t just medical textbooks. But she couldn’t find the “girlfriend’s guide” she was looking for. So she decided to write it. Although she says that it was a tough process getting the book sold, it eventually found a home about a year ago and Cheryl spent last year writing the book and interviewing dozens and dozens of women.
The advice and stories that came from the discussion was incredibly informative, and while comforting, it reinforced just how hard it really is. Believe me, I have no delusions about how difficult it is to maintain a healthy pregnancy while pregnant, but I know that it can be done. One young woman asked, “Were you even able to enjoy your pregnancy?” and a couple of women, including one who is already pregnant, essentially said, “No!” Although they said they loved the end result, the process of being pregnant was definitely a challenge. One fear that was brought up was the fear about the damage that is caused to the baby from high blood sugars. Cheryl assured us that one blood sugar reading of 200 mg/dl was not toasting the baby, but that consecutive high blood sugars or high blood sugars for an extended period of time is what causes the most concern. In addition, even the most well-controlled woman with diabetes with perfect A1Cs can still have a larger-than-normal baby, which is usually why women with diabetes have their pregnancies induced or schedule a C-section (among a few other reasons!).
We also discussed food cravings, and Cheryl was very realistic, admitting that she ate chocolate on occasion. With as much testing as she was doing, it was easier to keep on top of spikes in blood sugar. Another woman actually said she craved healthy food! Hopefully that is me. I have such a sweet tooth! We also covered birth plans, which is how a mom desires the flow of the birth event to go but for a woman with diabetes can basically go out of the window at a moment’s notice. Basically, the only birth plan anyone really cared about was the one that resulted in a healthy baby!
One woman was blatantly honest when she said that she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to have a baby or be pregnant, and asked how women came to that decision. Cheryl admitted that she spent her twenties single and focused on her career, and it wasn’t until her thirties that she decided she wanted to get married and have children. Another woman stated that it was never even an option about whether or not she would have a child. But it was comforting when Cheryl said that there are many ways to become a parent besides pregnancy, like adoption, fostering, or being the cool adult friend to your friend’s kids. There are many ways of having kids in your life.
For me, I plan on being a mom. It’s something I have wanted to do since I was a little kid. For most of my high school and college years, though, my default setting was basically adoption. But with so many resources coming out for who want to get pregnant, it’s definitely something I am looking forward to experiencing for myself.
Photo credit: Karen Hoffman