What's it like having diabetes and a baby? To find out we asked eight women to share their stories.
Amy de la Cruz, 34
Fort Worth, Texas
For Amy de la Cruz, exercise is key to good diabetes control during pregnancy. “I stayed active the whole time,” she says. “I went on a walk two days before [delivery].” She also maintained strict blood glucose control. “I kept my A1C below 6 throughout the entire pregnancy,” she says. “I was very, very obsessive about carb counting. It was very intense.” Her hard work paid off in July 2009 when de la Cruz, a nurse, gave birth to her son, Nicholas. Her only regret: worrying too much during the pregnancy. “Overall, on average, you are doing a good job of maintaining your blood sugar,” she says. “Don’t stress out about the occasional spikes you’ll have. I spent so much energy worrying for nothing.”
Cheryl Alkon, 40
By the time Cheryl Alkon had her son Ethan she was an expert on pregnancy with diabetes. After months of researching her book, Balancing Pregnancy With Preexisting Diabetes: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby, which was released in April, she knew the importance of pre-pregnancy planning. Once she hit her A1C target, Alkon began trying to conceive. "I tested my blood sugars all the time—I'd say 10, 12 times a day," she says. "When I got pregnant, it was 15 times." Looking back three years to when she delivered her son, Alkon says mothers-to-be should be optimistic. "It is definitely possible," she says. And the bonus: "Pregnancy can really inspire you to get your blood sugar in the best control you can get."
Bethany Rose, 31
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Bethany Rose can attest to the fact that managing diabetes while pregnant is hard work. "It was nine months of monitoring and tracking," she recalls. "It wears you out. It was a constant job." She credits her tight control to the insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor she started using before her pregnancy. Still, during the third trimester, the retinopathy in Rose's left eye worsened. (She wrote about her experience here.) Preeclampsia drove Rose's doctors to schedule a cesarean section, and Rose gave birth to a baby girl in May 2009. Though some cloudiness remains in her eye, Rose, an accountant, says the birth of her daughter was absolutely worth it. "It was the difference between being a mother and not being a mother," she says. "There's no way I would change that."
Kerri Sparling, 31
Though Kerri Sparling, 31, didn’t start trying to have a baby until 2009, it was pregnancy she was pondering in 2003 when she went on an insulin pump to gain better control over her type 1 diabetes. Once pregnant, Sparling, a diabetes blogger at Six Until Me, took her diabetes management up another notch. “I thought, ‘If this is really my goal, every step counts,’ ” she recalls. “I started to become a very actively involved patient.” Still, pregnancy came with worries. “I didn’t imagine it was going to be so emotionally difficult,” she says. “Every meal felt like a guiltfest.” But, she adds, all the work was worth it. After a month of bed rest (due to preeclampsia), Sparling gave birth to a healthy baby girl in April 2010.
Aimee Gliese, 40
Dealing with a diagnosis of diabetes is tough enough. But for Aimee Gliese, a website designer, that diagnosis occurred during pregnancy (though her doctors suspect her type 2 had gone undiagnosed for a year). "There was this rush of information that I had to figure out in a week," she says: She had to learn to use insulin, test her blood glucose, and count carbs all while her body was acting unpredictably, but Gliese says the diagnosis was a blessing, in a way. "In retrospect, I'm so much healthier now than I was," she says. Her son, Declan, now 7 years old, is benefiting, she adds: "[My diagnosis] dramatically improved the way I taught my son to eat."
Tanima Banerjee, 32
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Tanima Banerjee already had a full plate when she found out she was pregnant: She was a graduate student getting her master’s in statistics. Her A1C was below 7 percent, but her doctor explained that she still needed to make some changes to ensure a healthy pregnancy. First up: a switch from metformin (Banerjee has type 2 diabetes) to insulin. She also saw a dietitian who helped her count carbs and add protein to her meals. “Sometimes it was harder,” says Banerjee. “I was in school at that time so I had to carry an amount of food because I had to eat snacks.” Banerjee’s focus on meal planning helped her gain a healthy amount of weight. She delivered a baby girl, Sreeja, in September 2009.
Anna Kendall, 36
A couple of months after she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Anna Kendall had another surprise: She was pregnant with her second child. "My doctor had given me eight weeks to try to see if I could lower everything with diet and exercise," she says. "I had lowered my A1C to 5.8. ... And that's when I found out I was pregnant." Right away, Kendall, a data analyst, started reading up on diabetes and pregnancy. "It did not look good," she says. "I went through a couple of weeks depressed .... And then I took control of it." On April 7, 2010, Kendall gave birth to a son, Logan. Aside from a day of low blood glucose, the baby was healthy—a testament to Kendall's hard work.
Heidi Wickstrom, 38
Ladera Ranch, Calif.
Now that she’s pregnant for the second time, Heidi Wickstrom is drawing on knowledge she garnered three years ago, when she gave birth to her daughter, Campbell. “It’s really important to have the A1Cs in a good range,” she says. Wickstrom also learned what it means to have a large baby (the delivery was tough going); this time around, she may have a cesarean section. “If I had gone back, I would have had a C-section,” she says. “She was 9 pounds, and with my frame it was difficult.” But the greatest lesson she has learned is that, with diabetes, it’s possible to have a healthy baby: “I might be a little more relaxed this time.”