Managing Type 1 Diabetes As a New Parent

Congratulations, you’re going home for the first time with your new baby! You have navigated a successful pregnancy with type 1 diabetes and should feel very proud, accomplished and exhausted. 

Now is a great time to take a deep breath, step back and evaluate how you’re feeling. How long has it been since you last checked your blood sugar? When did you last eat? If you’re staying overnight at the hospital, did you plan ahead for your own medical needs? Take care of yourself and your health so that you can then focus on spending time with your new baby!

So, now what? Well, now you have a beautiful new baby to take care of, and that’s one of the most rewarding, and challenging, things in the world.

Adjusting to Life After Childbirth

This new baby is going to turn your life upside down for a while, and with that, your type 1 diabetes priorities are going to shift. You may now be missing some of the intensive support and health professional teamwork you had while pregnant. Your doctor visits are tapering off, and your diabetes appointments can go back to their pre-pregnancy schedule. 

Remember, you still have a lot of support, but it may be more around catching up to the parental learning curve than for type 1 diabetes issues. While you are recovering from giving birth, take advantage of all the helpful resources and support you can get. There may be new challenges that arise post-birth, both physically and emotionally. Being aware of what you can expect and developing strategies to lean on will help you get through it all. Some of these challenges and changes include:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Emotional fluctuations 
  • Lack of sleep 
  • Anxiety 
  • Lack of intensive support 
  • Lack of a finite endpoint or goal (like the goal of delivering a healthy baby)

Hormonal Changes

Do you remember what your pregnancy was like? If you had unusual cravings or feelings that came out of nowhere, those may have been thanks to the hormones impacting you (and preparing your body for carrying your child). Now that your baby is here, you are going through a whole new set of hormonal changes as you transition into the next phase of parenthood. Nobody can tell you exactly what your body is going to do, but being aware that you are going to experience changes again will help. 

Emotional Fluctuations

Very often, significant hormonal changes also come with some pretty powerful psychological changes. The most common is post-partum depression, which alone can make it difficult to stay focused on your type 1 diabetes management. The symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, guilt, feeling overwhelmed, sleep and eating disturbances, exhaustion, low energy and feeling easily frustrated. 

Trust yourself to take these feelings seriously, and to ask for help. Talk regularly with your doctor, and keep testing your blood-sugar and taking your insulin as needed. Don’t forget about the option of contacting a professional therapist, if needed, to help you sort out some of the feelings you are experiencing. Talking with a trained professional can sometimes be just what you need.

Managing Type 1 Diabetes Post-Childbirth

On top of all of the hormonal and emotional shifts you may be experiencing, you still have to make time and build in strategies to manage your type 1 diabetes.

Picture this: You have been trying for an hour to get your little one to fall asleep for a long-overdue nap. You’re walking back and forth, rocking and swaying, like parents do, working hard to soothe and calm the baby. After a while, the two of you settle into your favorite chair or spot on the couch, and finally he or she drifts off to sleep. You know that if you move a single muscle, he or she will wake again. 

And then you feel it. Your blood-sugar is dropping. You need quick and easy access to glucose tablets and a meter. If you have to do a bunch of shuffling to get them, you might wake your baby again, which is the last thing you want to do. Thankfully though, you thought ahead, and have a sugary drink within reach! 

This situation is all too common for new parents who have type 1 diabetes, so it’s important to be prepared. Keep glucose tablets or other sources of fast-acting glucose stashed everywhere in your home. If you have extra meters and strips, put them nearby—and be sure to refill your supplies regularly, too. Your hands will be full most of the time until your baby grows a bit, and you’ll need to be able to deal with a low blood-sugar level without disrupting him or her by planning ahead and envisioning these scenarios beforehand, and putting supplies where you can get to them quickly and easily. 

Glucose tablets glucose meter, test strips, crackers and soda

Keeping Anxiety and Stress at Bay

New parents worry about everything, and for good reason. Is the bottle too hot? Too cold? Did I sterilize it correctly? There are a whole bunch of “new parent” worries you may begin to feel, and that is completely normal.

Babies crying, lack of sleep — these can cause stress levels to rise. And as you probably already know, stress can make blood-sugar levels shift dramatically. Try to keep stress in mind if you’re wondering why your blood-sugar has gone through the roof or dropped very low very quickly. 

In some cases, you can proactively deal with stress-related blood-sugar levels. But many times there’s nothing you can do, and that’s okay. You just have to react to what your glucose meter is telling you. Don’t stress out over that! 

It can be easy to get drawn into that downward spiral of stress and blood-sugar chaos? Do your best to keep stress at bay, but also acknowledge that a certain amount of stress is normal and to be expected, and again, do your best to react as needed.