Guest post: "Having children put a strain on managing my diabetes"
For Kathryn Miller, becoming a parent complicated how she controlled her diabetes – but it also made her more vigilant about looking after herself
Posted on: Tue 16-Feb-16 11:53:47
(14 comments )
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was three. I've now lived with it for over 30 years, and with careful planning and management I have never had any complications – but all the things I did to control it came under strain when I had children.
Managing diabetes is easier with a good routine and sleep pattern, and being able to get food when my body needs it – none of which are compatible with having kids, especially when they are babies.
Breastfeeding and a lack of sleep are difficult enough to contend with as a new mother – when you have diabetes, they're even harder. Blood glucose can fall at night without you initially realising because you're asleep; even before I had kids, I would sometimes wake up when my blood sugar level had fallen too low (known as hypoglycaemia, or hypo) and have to get up to test my blood sugar and treat it. When I was breastfeeding, I also had to test my sugar levels after a feed, even in the middle of the night when all I wanted to do was sleep.
My children are now five and three and I no longer breastfeed, but while I was I kept coming close to having hypos. Testing blood sugar and injecting insulin in public can be nerve-wracking. It's similar to breastfeeding in public – it can make you feel self-conscious (even if you know it shouldn't), but it's something you know you have to do.
Testing blood sugar and injecting insulin in public can be nerve-wracking. It's similar to breastfeeding in public – it can make you feel self-conscious (even if you know it shouldn't), but it's something you know you have to do.
I've learnt not to be afraid to inject insulin whenever and wherever I need to. I have friends who have always refused to do it in the middle of a restaurant, instead waiting until they got home – but this is likely to results in bloods going high. Now I have kids, I'm even more vigilant about looking after myself.
I do sometimes worry about what other people's children may think if they see me testing my levels and injecting insulin. My kids are aware of what I'm doing – if I suddenly have a hypo, they need to be able to explain to people what is happening so I can get any help I might need. But other children may not understand what I'm doing, and I can only hope that their parents are in a position to explain. That's why I'm always happy to answer questions and help raise awareness about diabetes.
It's easier to manage my diabetes now my kids are a little older, especially now I am getting more sleep. There are still challenges but careful planning make them manageable. I have just taken on a part-time job, and besides the normal concerns such as childcare I've also had to work out how I'll adapt testing and mealtimes to my new routine.
Children and diabetes both require a lot of organisation – having both can sometimes require military precision. But the more advice I get, the better I am at managing my condition well. I am really pleased that the new book from Diabetes UK 100 things I wish I'd known about diabetes, will see valuable tips and advice from people with diabetes reaching even more people who are living with the condition, their families and friends.
In 100 things I wish I'd known about living with diabetes, people with diabetes share useful tips around every part of life to help others living with the condition. Order your free copy here.
By Kathryn Miller
I'm type 1 diabetic and have just had my second baby. During pregnancy, my diabetes was very difficult to control, requiring rapidly, significantly increasing insulin doses.
Immediately after the birth, insulin requirements dropped back to pre pregnancy levels and lower again as breastfeeding was established.
I agree that it's a daily battle to cope with the demands of the children and the demands of managing diabetes.
I am not in a decent routine yet and struggling to find time to cook properly, tending to grab sandwiches and eating in the go when I remember. I have, more than once, become distracted by one of both of the children and missed my injection, only realising why the headache hits later on.
I'm glad I read this as a reminder that my children deserve me at my most healthy and, for their benefit, I must make my health more of a priority.
As a healthcare professional working in diabetes care, I am in awe of you, managing diabetes, young children & pregnancy.
Thanks for the link to the book. I need to look after myself a bit better so this could be really helpful.
Good management can sound so easy but putting it into practice is really bloody hard!
If I could punch my useless pancreas I totally would
My diabetes has always been brittle. I don't think people realise how hard it is for some diabetics.
I'm T1 (32 years and counting) and have had eye complications which are thankfully now stable. I also have 3 children aged 8, 6 and 2. Moving onto a pump 12 years ago was life changing for me, I would recommend at least giving it a go if you get the chance.
I've been seeing counsellor at my diabetes centre for the last year or so, as I was feeling completely burnt out from intensive sugar control and balancing things during pregnancy and breastfeeding, she's really helped me get things moving in the right direction again. I had no idea the service was even available, if people think it would help them it's definitely worth asking about.
My older son was diagnosed with type 1 at the age of 13 months and I had to be careful what I ate when breastfeeding. Managing the condition is no easier 6 years on, a pump certainly helps!, but I have a great deal of respect for Grown Up type 1s and wish you all well with your journeys.
Tidy, if you don't mind me asking, why did you have to be careful what you were eating, is it because high blood sugar affects glucose in breastmilk? I'm a diabetic and breastfeeding my first baby at the moment, and I've been told by my diabetic team that there's no effect of my high sugars on the breastmilk...
I found that if I ate (lots) any chocolate then fed him 12 hours or so later he would later run high. It may have been coincidence but it did seem to happen when I'd indulged. Eating lots of pasta or bread didn't have the same effect.
I developed type 1 during my first pregnancy. Having that life change dropped on me at the same time as my first baby was about to arrive was almost too much to bear. Coping with hypos and hourly management of my blood while also learning to be a parent to a newborn was HARD.
My second pregnancy was hard, and being an insulin-dependent (now single) parent of two small children was and still is very hard.
I worry about taking them for a day trip by myself. Not sure I could ever take them on holiday alone. I worry about driving long distances. I worry about even taking them out for some fresh air and exercise with the dog, because running after them or playing an impromptu game can send me low. Despite my best efforts to prepare and adjust to what I'm about to do, this has still caught me out many times. It's incredibly frustrating.
The day following a night-time low or overnight high is exhausting and groggy.
Everything has to be micromanaged and it's very tiring not to mention the amount of anxiety it provokes.
An insulin pump has definitely helped with the practicalities. I could take a dose with a babe in arms.
But even the pump is not infallible. I've had times when I got ready to go out in a rush and forgot to put it on after a shower, or been in the middle of a meal out only to find it had run out of insulin and I had forgotten to act on the warning beep earlier.
I hate it when people say you can lead a normal life with this illness. Yes, we can do normal things, but not in a normal way. I can't even take my kids to school without checking my blood/remembering my lucozade. Even sleeping doesn't give you a break.
I think type 1 diabetes is the newborn baby that will never grow up. It will always need round the clock attention.
Sorry, this is a bit of a downer of a post! Of course, life is still good! But annoyingly much, much harder than it should be.
I have had T1 diabetes for 27 years now and have a 4 and 2 year old. Life is tough, management of diabetes is made much harder when you have dependents. I went on the insulin pump before i fell pregnant with my second child. This has honestly been life changing. As said above, it still has its issues but definitely easier than injecting. Anyone struggling with diabetes, talk to you diabetes consultant and try to get hold of the pump!
My DH has Type 1 and though obviously has no issues of pregnancy and breastfeeding, I can see how lack of sleep, snatched meals, and demanding children just as he has a hypo, can all affect him.
On the plus side, our DS is 4 and he now knows that THOSE snacks are only Daddy's and he's not allowed to ask for them or take them!
I was diagnosed with Type1 diabetes about 2 years ago. Since then my life has changed. I was afraid of the needles but with time I get used to them. A while ago I have read about Abasria on rxed.eu/en/a/Abasria/ (it's a replacement insulin,very similar to the insulin made by the body). And I started to inject myself with their KwikPen. The most important is don't give up.
Thank you OP, for your thought provoking post. Well done you, for managing so courageously through pregnancy and breast-feeding. How lucky you're kids are to have such a super mum, and good on them for learning to help you during hypos.
I have had Type 1 for 41 years and I am so cheered by the awareness that is being raised and that the extra challenge of managing kids and diabetes is starting to be talked about. When I was first diagnosed it was treated as something that you didn't mention and became something I came to be ashamed of.It took many years before I was able to even say that I was diabetic, to friends even. Seems so silly these days! Here's to you and yours! < sugar free cranberry juice
Thank you for sharing this and well done for managing to breastfeed alongside managing your Type 1 - I've read about how difficult this can be.
Just a couple of thoughts on your post. You say that when you were breastfeeding you "kept coming close to having hypos". I assume that you mean severe hypos - it's important for people to understand that mild hypos are a normal part of T1D.
Also you say that "with careful planning and management" you didn't have any complications. I think it's really important that people understand that people with T1D work incredibly hard to reduce their risk of complications, but that they can still occur with good management - it's a very sad fact of life. And finally, I'm really glad that you are now injecting and testing in public.
I'm raising my son to hopefully have no shame about public management of his T1D. When he was diagnosed I realised that we had never seen anyone blood test or inject in public, and I drew the same analogy as you with breastfeeding. The more people that do it publicly, the less of a big deal it is.
Again, thank you for sharing. I'm withholding judgement on the book until I get my copy, but am hoping it will have some valuable insights. I'm a bit worried that it will take away from the fact that diabetes, particularly T1D, is a serious medical condition. In the case of T1, the person makes innumerable clinical judgements every day, adjusting doses, accounting for exercise and weather, growth spurts, excitement, etc; correcting with insulin, changing canullas, performing blood tests, injecting around 6 times a day, to stay in normal range about half the time. I take my hat of to you doing this whilst raising your children.