This is a post for @diabetesuk
I was 26 when I fell pregnant with my first son, although I had unfortunately had a miscarriage a few months before. I have suffered with an underactive thyroid since around the age of 17 so I was used to feeling tired and having a myriad of vague ‘not quite right but not enough to bother anyone about’ symptoms.
During the pregnancy I suffered migraines and bouts of fainting but as I have always had symptoms (as mentioned above) I’ve learnt not to mention them too much, my GP at the time said both the migraines and the fainting were common in pregnancy so, although it was difficult never being able to stand in a queue, I learned to live with it. What I didn’t realise at the time was the close connection between endocrinological disorders.
The first indication of there being anything else wrong was at my 20 week scan when it was noted that my baby was large. I had further scans at which it was noted that the head and stomach circumference were larger than expected. Due to my thyroid condition I was under the care of a consultant endocrinologist and it was during these check ups that my gestational diabetes was discovered. At a routine appointment to see my consultant the nurse did the usual urine test and then scurried off rather than chatting reassuringly, I can’t remember how far along I was but I think it was around 34 weeks.
I was quickly taken into see my consultant who order blood tests and a further scan – they determined at this point that I had gestational diabetes. I was quite shocked and scared at this diagnosis but it was comforting that the my thyroid doctor was the same man who I was then to see for the diabetes. He was very calm and reassuring and with the assistance of a nurse talked me through the whole process of monitoring my blood sugar. Unfortunately it wasn’t picked up until late into the pregnancy so although they induced me at term my son was still quite a large baby at 8lb13. I developed oedema during the latter stages of the pregnancy to my hands, legs, ankles and face to the extent that I can hardly recognise myself in the photos taken directly after the birth.
After the birth I had to take a gloucose tolerance test which involved reading an entire book in a waiting room while occasionally drinking incredibly sweet drinks and then having blood tests! The result of this was deemed to be that I would almost certainly develop stage 2 diabetes at some point in my life and that if I were to get pregnant again then I would develop gestational diabetes again during the pregnancy. I also noticed rapid weight loss after the birth and was told to stop taking my thyroid medication as I had developed postpartum thyroiditis.
Before falling pregnant with my next son, I suffered a further miscarriage.
As soon as I knew I was pregnant with my second son, I was immediately referred to see the endocrinolgist. He discovered that the diabetes had already kicked in – but he said to me the diabetes should begin and end with the pregnancy. This time the diabetes was more severe and I had to test my blood 3 times a day at home and administer injections to try and control my blood sugar levels.
The migraines and the fainting were much worse with this second pregnancy, my Obstetrics consultant said to me that the migraines were probably due to an oestrogen intolerance (but I’m a girl?!) which actually did make some sense as I am unable to take the pill due to migraines and had an unfortunate incident with the Mirena coil which we won’t go into just now.
The fainting proved to be a very difficult issue as I had an active one year old to look after and so wasn’t in a position to ‘rest and relax’ as I was often advised to do – I fainted each and every single time that I went shopping. If there was more than one person in front of me in a queue I knew I would faint – I once fainted in a shop and in the split second before I passed out I managed to fall sideways in order to avoid my bump and my baby in the pram – this resulted in a tyre mark bruise across my stomach as I caught the pram wheel. That occasion sticks in my mind because no one helped me. When I came round I got myself up and left the shop, cried all the way home with a banged head and a terrifying bruise on my tummy.
This prompted a visit to see my consultant who said they were ‘simple faints’, probably exasperated by low blood sugar but mainly due to low blood pressure. He suggested drinking more water, sleeping with my legs fractionally higher than my head, wearing support stockings and sitting with my feet up as much as possible.
For the diabetes itself I had to follow a basically good diet, concentrating on low sugar foods and low GI foods. I soon found that some unexpected foods sent my blood sugar sky high – things like white bread and orange juice for example sent my readings higher than coca cola! However I also found that by swopping types of food – white bread for english muffins or crumpets I was able to eat things I liked without upsetting my blood sugar.
For more blogs on diabetes, please see http://blogs.diabetes.org.uk/?p=201