Thank you to Diabetes Guernsey committee member Roxy for sharing her diabetes story with us, including her pregnancy journey.
When it comes to having diabetes, pregnancy can be a far more daunting experience than normal, and while it does come with risks it's undoubtedly worth it when you hold your little bundle of joy, just ask Roxy.
However, it can be incredibly isolating and lonely especially if you don't know anyone who has been through this. Roxy hopes that this story helps people to realise they aren't alone and she's there to help.
Could you please give us a little background to your diabetes (Type, when and how you were diagnosed and age)?
I'm a Type 1 Diabetic, diagnosed at the age of 12 after showing many symptoms.
What kind of complications has your diabetes caused for you?How do you manage these (do you need regular eye check-ups, medication etc?)
I have had a number of complications and have spent a lot of time in hospital with high blood sugars/ketoacidosis including a stay in intensive care. I've had various haemorrhages in my left eye which resulted in injections, laser treatment and a vitrectomy in Southampton earlier this year. I've since been advised that the same issue has now started in the right eye.
How does your diabetes affect your daily life/lifestyle?
I manage my diabetes using the Libre and Omnipod devices, as well as carb counting.
What about your mental wellbeing?
I try my hardest to manage my diabetes but it can impact my day. I have a stressful job which I think contributes to my high blood sugars. I often feel tired and have no motivation.
Is there anything you need to be particularly careful about/any specific challenges that you face?
I have struggled with my mental wellbeing due to the diabetes. It is a journey I am still fighting as new complications arise.
I have a 3-month-old daughter so I try to be careful not to have any hypos whilst looking after her, thankfully my blood sugar rarely goes low.
What advice would you give to someone who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes?
My advice would be, reach out to other diabetics for support, I never had that growing up and I feel that things would be different if I had. This is one of the reasons why I got involved with the charity, to support others. It can be very lonely sometimes so please, reach out.
Are there any misconceptions about diabetes that you would like to dispel?
I'd like to dispel the misconception that we aren't allowed to eat cake etc. We can, it's all about moderation. Most people carb count so will take this into consideration when taking their medication. Afterall, everybody deserves a treat.
This leads me onto my pregnancy journey:
At 32 years old I had dreamed of being a mother for a long time but I was petrified due to the complications that may arise, and at the time I didn't know anyone with Type 1 Diabetes who had been through a pregnancy (until recently) and there is quite a lot of negative information out there.
From a young age I was led to believe I shouldn't have children.
My journey began in April 2020 when I found out I was pregnant, and although it was planned it happened very quickly, I'd had discussions with the Diabetes Specialist and nurses before the pregnancy.
When I found out I went into total shock and fear and within two hours of finding out I was pregnant I called Alison the Diabetes nurse, because;
1. I had no idea how to manage my diabetes whilst pregnant, and,
2. We were in complete island lockdown.
They were great and reassured me, and from that moment I was very strict with monitoring my blood sugar. It can be dangerous for the baby if blood sugars go too high over a period of time so that was my number one goal. For the first and second trimester I had low blood sugars at least four times a day, then during the third trimester my blood sugars were higher and required a lot of insulin; three times the amount I usually took before being pregnant.
Having diabetes increases the risk of being diagnosed with preeclampsia so I was prescribed Aspirin to reduce the risk.
Before I was pregnant I'd been receiving treatment for a haemorrhage in my eye due to diabetic retinopathy, which we thought were under control but unfortunately the bleeds continued and got worse due to being pregnant. At around 34-weeks pregnant I was referred to Southampton to receive eye surgery however, as I was unable to fly at that stage in my pregnancy so, this had to be put on hold.
Due to the bleeds in my eye I was then advised to stop taking the aspirin, so I was seen on the Loveridge ward every two weeks. However, at around 32 weeks I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and over time this worsened.
I was admitted to hospital at around 35 weeks to have steroids to help the baby's lungs develop, as there were concerns I may have to deliver early. Steroids can affect blood sugar levels so I was monitored and kept on an insulin drip known as a slide and scale.
After a three day stay I was discharged but, as the preeclampsia had progressed I had to go to the ward daily to be checked and was advised I could deliver the baby any day soon.
Being type 1 Diabetic you will deliver at 38 weeks for the safety of the baby.
I continued to work (even from the hospital bed) up to 37 weeks.
I was booked in for a c-section due to my daughter being breech, but, on Sunday 22nd November I went for my daily check up and due to the severity of the preeclampsia and hypertension I was advised I would require an emergency c-section.
From that point things became emergent, my blood sugars were continuously low and doctors struggled to raise them so, I was taken in for surgery where my blood pressure went extremely high and there were concerns for both myself and baby.
It was an extremely scary and difficult day. My daughter was delivered at 37 weeks and taken straight to NICU and finally after four long hours I got to meet her.
Due to me being diabetic her blood sugars were checked regularly as there was a risk of hers being low, so we stayed in hospital for six days. Following the birth I developed an infection around my wound area due to being diabetic which meant I was a regular on the ward for another two months and was consistently prescribed antibiotics, in time it healed.
Fast forward to three months post-pregnancy and I've also received the eye surgery due to it being urgent as I could have potentially lost my eyesight.
This is the short version of my pregnancy journey, as I sit here writing this with my baby daughter Olivia, it was all worth it.
I wanted to share my journey to raise awareness for anyone who is considering pregnancy. I was taken care of by a wonderful midwife throughout my pregnancy. The Diabetes team was also fantastic and visited me every single time I was on the ward.
I don't want my story to scare anyone, it's to share the knowledge that if you do face complications you will be supported and you will get through it. It is amazing how well you handle the tight control on your blood sugar levels knowing it is for you and your baby, I never thought I could do it but I did and so can you.
I am on the committee for Diabetes Guernsey so if you do feel alone or scared/anxious I am happy to support you through your journey so, please get in touch.
Becoming a mother is the best thing I have ever done and I am extremely proud of dealing with the many issues I faced.