A Guide to Post-Pregnancy Life with Type 1 Diabetes

Your baby has finally arrived! Like most new parents, you will likely experience a whirlwind of emotions, from elation to relief to exhaustion, and back to excitement again. Just as with type 1 diabetes and pregnancy, there will be special precautions taken after the birth to ensure that you and your baby are in good health.

At the Hospital

Immediately after delivery, your baby will likely be whisked away for a brief moment to get his or her blood sugar checked. It is very common for babies of women with type 1 diabetes to be born with low blood sugar. If this happens, there is no need to be alarmed. The medical team will be familiar with this phenomenon and know the treatments for bringing your baby’s blood sugar up to the normal range for babies. (In case you were wondering, being born with a low blood sugar level does not mean that your child will have type 1 diabetes!) 

Once your baby has had a thorough check up, you will have the opportunity to spend time with the baby and the rest of your family, if you choose. It is not uncommon for women to be truly exhausted at this time, especially if they experienced a long or intense labor. Don’t push yourself too hard or feel obligated to receive friends and family after you’ve given birth–-what matters most right now is your health and recovery, and your loved ones will completely understand! 

Be sure to rest as much as possible while you are in the hospital, as you probably won’t get much rest once you arrive at home. Decide in advance whether or not you want your baby to sleep in your room. With all the excitement around having a new baby, you might jump at the opportunity to have your newborn in the room with you. If you choose this option, just be aware that it may require more energy on your part and will give you less time for physical and mental recovery. On the other hand, you may choose to have the baby sleep in the nursery and be brought to you when the baby is ready to be fed.  

Don’t Expect to Get Much Sleep!

Whether you like it or not, your baby is the boss! They will be the one setting the sleep schedule for the time being. You may be tempted to get stuff done while your baby is sleeping, but don’t forget that when the baby sleeps, you can too. Even if you can’t nap, at least put your feet up and take a few minutes to yourself. After all of your hard work, you deserve it!  

It may be tempting to forgo sleep in service of other activities that feel more “productive”. But sleep-deprivation can affect you in subtle ways that you might not realize until it starts causing trouble. For people with type 1 diabetes, not getting enough sleep can affect your health. Blood sugar levels may run higher as a result of the stress of missed sleep, and you may snack more frequently or crave foods that spike your blood sugar levels. Ultimately, not getting enough sleep can lead to a dangerous level of apathy when it comes to managing your type 1 diabetes.  

As mentioned earlier, it’s best to rest when the baby rests, and find ways to get things done while your child is awake. Don’t be afraid to use a bouncy chair, baby swing or baby carriers to help you maintain a sense of sanity and rest. Protect your sleep—it never feels important until you’re not getting enough. 

To Breastfeed or Not to Breastfeed?

The decision to breastfeed is a personal one. While the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least the first six months of a baby’s life, there are dozens of variables that impact a woman’s decision and ability to breastfeed. As you think about whether this option is right for you, here are some facts you may want to consider:  

  • Breast milk is easier for babies to digest than formula. 
  • Breastfeeding is cheap, convenient, and easy. 
  • Breast milk has been linked to the reduction of type 1 diabetes, in addition to the reduction of sudden infant death syndrome and childhood leukemia. 
  • Babies who are breastfed may also have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, asthma and obesity in their future. 
  • Moms burn major calories when breastfeeding, which can help with post-partum weight loss. 
  • With all that calorie burning, hypoglycemia can become a problem. Monitor your blood sugar during and after breastfeeding and keep snacks handy throughout in case your blood sugar drops. 
  • Be careful about infections, like thrush or mastitis, which are more common in moms with diabetes.  

Keep Up with Your Type 1 Diabetes Management

In addition to the physical changes your body has gone through while managing type 1 diabetes and pregnancy, you have also experienced a huge transition with your management and care of the disease. That alone may cause some anxiety, and it’s easy to feel that you’re not doing enough to keep your type 1 diabetes management on track.  You might be worried about how infrequently you’re checking your blood sugar or be concerned about having severe episode of hypoglycemia that will put your baby in danger. Those are pretty big—and totally valid—concerns to have. 

When developing a strategy to manage everything, start small, much smaller than you first think. It might be as simple as additional times during the day to check your blood sugar and then setting things up to make sure you follow through. For example, you might want to set reminders on your phone or calendar for when it’s time to check or keep your glucose meter or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) on hand at all times.  

Try to cut yourself some slack as you ease into post-pregnancy life, and work on establishing strategies to improve your routine. Once you’re moving in the right direction, you’ll notice the anxiety and fear slipping away, which will make it easier to keep working. Not to mention, reducing your stress levels will help keep your blood-sugar levels under control!

Reach Out to Your Health Care Team for Support

How often did you see your type 1 diabetes health care team before your pregnancy? Once every three months? Every six months? As your pregnancy moved further along, the visits ramped up, and by the end you likely had checkups and consultations a few times each week.  

 Now that you’ve had your baby, your interactions with your health care team may be scaling back drastically. The sudden contrast can be challenging to deal with! Let your doctors know if you are feeling isolated during the post-pregnancy transition, and that you’d like to figure out some ways to keep in contact. Your team can still support you and play an important role in helping to manage your diabetes!