High Risk Pregnancy – Mitigating Risks for Type 1 Diabetes + Black Maternal Health Outcomes

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Kayla Hui, MPH

In 2020, Ariel Lawrence, a diabetes advocate and creator of Just A Little Suga–a storytelling platform that centers people of color with diabetes–found out that she was pregnant. Although Lawrence was excited, she couldn’t help but feel anxious. As a Black woman living with type 1 diabetes, Lawrence worried about how the intersection of having diabetes and being a Black woman would impact her and her baby.

According to Christopher Nau, MD, a doctor of maternal fetal medicine based in Cleveland, Ohio, timely access to diabetes and maternal health care is crucial, especially for Black women who—due to multiple factors including systemic racism and implicit bias— are three times more likely to die from childbirth compared to white women in the U.S.

“Once I found out that I was pregnant, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety. And although I was working with the care team to make sure that my management was tighter and my blood sugars were in range, the reality was that there were moments where it wasn’t in range, there were high blood sugars, and sometimes, there were high blood sugars for extended periods of time,” Lawrence tells Beyond Type 1.

Lawrence’s blood sugar level concerns lingered since getting diagnosed with type 1 when she was in the tenth grade. “In college, there was a nurse who had said to me, type 1 diabetes and pregnancy don’t mix,” Lawrence recalls. “At that point in my diabetes journey, I remember struggling to get my A1c below a 7.2. So for the longest, there was this question of can I actually do what I need to sustain a healthy pregnancy while living with diabetes?”

According to research, Black women are four times more likely to receive zero to five prenatal care visits when compared with white women. In addition to receiving statistically lower levels of care, “Black women are less likely to get into care early in the first trimester, which is important specifically for someone who has diabetes,” Nau says.

One of the contributing factors to poor health outcomes for pregnant Black people is systemic racism. Compared to pregnant white people, pregnant Black people are more likely to experience unfair treatment and discrimination within the healthcare system, such as being spoken to disrespectfully by healthcare personnel, being ignored after expressing fears/concerns, and experiencing poor bedside manner.

In addition to systemic racism, implicit bias–attitudes and stereotypes of other groups that manifest in overt and intentional discrimination–hampers maternal health for Black pregnant people. Implicit bias can impact a medical professional’s judgement to provide treatment and care in a timely manner. It can also hinder patient and provider communication.

When racial biases are expressed in a condescending manner, it can decrease the likelihood that patients will feel valued or heard and providers will recommend treatment options for patients.

Research shows that implicit bias is directly correlated with lower quality of care. A 2012 study found that cesarean deliveries–deliveries that can lead to more negative health outcomes for the pregnant individual and baby, including maternal mortality–were more common among Black and Latina women than white women.

From 2007 to 2016, there were 40.8 pregnancy-related deaths for Black women per 100,000 live births, triple the mortality rate compared to white women, who had 12.7 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births.

“I’m concerned as a Black woman with my own health, and whether or not I’ll live to share the experience of my birth because there have been so many women who unfortunately have passed away,” Lawrence says.

When Black pregnant people with diabetes do not receive timely maternal and diabetes care, Nau says that their blood sugar levels can rise, increasing the risk of miscarriage and birth defects increases. “The risk can be as high as 20 to 25 percent in someone who’s very poorly controlled,” Nau explains.

As a result, fetuses can have birth defects, such as cardiac malformations. Poorly controlled diabetes may also result in increased risk for stillbirth, respiratory distress, and jaundice, Nau explains. He adds that babies are at risk of hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, initially after delivery.

When pregnant people have consistently elevated blood glucose levels, it can also increase the chances of having a c-section. When a baby is delivered by a c-section, pregnant people may take longer to recover post childbirth.

Strength of a Medical and Health Support System

Aware of the maternal health outcomes for Black women, Lawrence hired a doula, which helped ease her anxiety surrounding pregnancy. “I was aware that when it came to Black maternal health outcomes, Black women are more likely to experience a C-section and have complications as a result,” Lawrence says. “To help minimize my anxiety, I decided to find a doula.” For Lawrence, having a doula meant having an advocate and support system.

According to DONA International, doulas offer physical, emotional, and partner support throughout the pregnancy, birth, and early postpartum period. Research shows that women who use a birth doula are less likely to have a c-section, use pain medication, need pitocin, and more likely to rate their childbirth experience positively.

During the birthing process, Lawrence’s doula liaised and communicated between Lawrence and medical professionals to ensure that Lawrence knew what the doctors were doing.

Coupled with a doula, Lawrence also leaned on her therapist for support. “I was afraid that something bad might happen. So, I had a therapist supporting me through that,” Lawrence says.

Improving Maternal Health Outcomes for Black Pregnant People With Diabetes

Alissa Erogbogbo, MD, medical director of operations at Hospitalist Group, says that there are opportunities to improve maternal health outcomes for Black pregnant people with diabetes through legislation. She says that an ideal bill would include postpartum follow up. “Whether it’s a nurse that they follow up with, a phone call to make sure they [pregnant people] are checking their blood sugars, there’s a lot of opportunity to really decrease the maternal mortality rate,” Erobogbo says.

In the U.S, the Medicaid program provides coverage for almost half of all births. Unfortunately, coverage only lasts 60 days postpartum. States have the option to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage for 12 months by applying for a section 1115 waiver. In April 2021, Illinois became the first state to extend Medicaid coverage for up to one full year after pregnancy. Joining Illinois’s postpartum Medicaid expansion are Missouri and Georgia.

However, there is still a long way to go, according to Erogbogbo. A handful of states including Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, and Florida have enacted legislation to seek federal approval of their 1115 waiver, but the majority of states have taken no direction.

“Most states need to follow that bandwagon. Continuity of care helps you understand how your health is progressing, what preventative measures that you can take,” Erogbogbo tells Beyond Type 1.

While postpartum coverage is available in some states, Medicaid program expansion is far from sufficient. To build on current maternal health efforts, Congresswoman Alma Adams, Senator Cory Booker, and members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, a bill that would not only expand postpartum coverage for up to 24 months postpartum under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants, and Children, but improve maternal health among racial and ethnic groups by addressing the social determinants of health.

If the Momnibus Act is passed, it would implement several actions such as providing funding to community-based organizations that are working to improve the maternal health space, diversifying the perinatal workforce to ensure that pregnant people are receiving culturally sensitive maternity care, improving data collection to better understand the causes of maternal health outcomes, and promoting innovative payment models to incentivize high-quality maternal health care and non-clinical perinatal support.

The bill was first introduced to the house on February 8, 2021 and was referred to the subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on April 23, 2021. Since the bill’s inception, it has been endorsed by over 240 organizations.

The aforementioned policies are not an end-all solution, but serve as a start to addressing disparate health outcomes for Black pregnant people on the policy level. People can also advocate to improve Black maternal and health conditions by:

Resources

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Be Prepared: Surviving Natural Disasters with Diabetes

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By: Amber Clour

Amber Clour was born and raised in Norman, Oklahoma. Twenty-one days after her eighth birthday, she was rushed to Children’s Hospital where she spent two weeks learning how to live her new life with type 1 diabetes. In 2015 she co-founded DiabetesDailyGrind.com and the Real Life Diabetes Podcast.

It may not be possible to anticipate every emergency, but for those with diabetes, it’s especially important to prepare for the unexpected. Hear how people with diabetes survived natural disasters, what they learned about planning ahead, and the advice they have for others.

Susan Hoagland, 70, who lives with type 1 diabetes, worked up until the day before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005. Then like most people in the path of the hurricane, she headed out of town.

“In my mind, I was only heading to Austin [Texas] in anticipation of Katrina for a long weekend and didn’t pack all of my medications and supplies,” she said. Hoagland didn’t have a prepared container of supplies, including medications, food, hypo treatments, glucose monitoring devices packed and ready to go – something she would later regret.

***

Dealing with diabetes management every day takes considerable effort, and even when we’re on our A-game, things can at times get overlooked. It’s important to anticipate what might be needed in the case of a natural disaster, so that the fight or flight response due to an adrenaline rush doesn’t get the better or you and your health.

Growing up in Tornado Alley (Oklahoma) means long ago I developed a game plan for emergencies, so that an impending tornado, and the need to leave my home, would not imperil my diabetes management.

I wanted to reach out to others who have been in this situation, and to Carol Atkinson, an expert at the Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition, to hear more about surviving natural disasters and the tips and tricks they have found helpful. The bottom line is that everyone should be prepared to leave their home in case of an emergency with everything they need to make it through the crisis. Being prepared and having everything ready to grab and go means when a natural disaster strikes, you don’t have to face making layers of decisions, delay your departure, or augment your flight or fight response.

To be prepared, think about all the supplies you will need:

  • Medications: Put a supply of all your medications in separate containers to last a week or longer, and think about how to keep insulin at the right temperature, such as an instant cool pack.
  • Injection supplies: syringes, your insulin pens, extra pump supplies
  • Food, a source of glucose, water to stay hydrated: a supply of glucose tabs works really well, some bottles of water, and some food that doesn’t spoil
  • Monitoring supplies – like my CGM, a backup blood glucose meter and strips, and a way to measure ketones
  • Copies of prescriptions
  • An emergency contact list contact in case of an emergency
  • Cellphone charger
  • Batteries, an ID, and cash

***

The morning before Hurricane Katrina hit the banks of New Orleans, Hoagland was in a panic ­– not a good mindset when it comes to making sure she would have everything she would need to survive the catastrophic storm. As she gathered her things in a hurry, she realized she had nowhere to go. She called her son and daughter-in-law, who called friends until they found a place in Austin where she could stay. Despite the fact that it takes eight hours to drive to Austin from New Orleans, she left unprepared.

“I drove straight for two days because you couldn’t stop; there was nowhere to stay,” she recalled. “The rest areas were packed and I had to keep moving. I was fearful for my life and my animals – we had to make it to Austin. It was a nightmare and I wasn’t prepared. In retrospect, I was in survival mode, fueled by adrenaline and weathering high blood sugars.”

One of the many things we might forget as people living with diabetes is how much of an effect adrenaline and stress can have on our blood sugar. It is in our best interest to take the necessary precautions well in advance to lessen the burden on our health when disaster strikes. That includes having the technology you need to test your blood sugar, the medications you need to manage your glucose or other conditions, and back-up emergency supplies like food, batteries, and water.

I reached out to Atkinson, co-chair of the Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition (of which diaTribe is a member) and director of Insulin for Life USA, to find out what advice she has for how to survive the unexpected. She emphasized the importance of preparedness, especially for people living with a chronic illness.

“Always be prepared by building your preparedness kit well before disaster hits and make it customizable to your needs,” Atkinson said. “Be sure to check your kit every quarter to make sure nothing has expired. Other things to consider when packing your preparedness kit ­– a laminated copy of your prescriptions, photo identification, and cash.”

Atkinson suggests leaving the checklist to the experts so you don’t have to worry about making a list yourself. The Diabetes Disaster Resource Coalition makes it easy by providing a downloadable preparedness plan checklist. And you can find even more resources from the coalition here.

Natural disaster

Image source: Cynthia Celt

In 2016, Cynthia Celt and her husband, Mike, set off on an adventure in Costa Rica. After a four hour van ride in the middle of the night in heavy rain, the road was almost a foot deep with mud, and they found themselves stuck in a landslide.

Rescue trucks soon arrived to extract them from the sea of mud. Before Celt knew what was happening, her bag containing all her diabetes supplies was placed into a truck and took off into the dark hills of the unknown country without her. She rode in the back of another truck back to the now powerless resort safely, but without her bag.

“My phone was dead, so I didn’t have my Dexcom readings,” Celt said. “My meter, chargers, and cables were in the back of another truck, which didn’t matter because I had no electricity to charge them. I had little bits of all my diabetes supplies with me, but not nearly enough to sustain me for the entire trip. I was scared to dose as I couldn’t check and had just a candy or two that remained in my purse to treat possible lows.”

Not having access to your diabetes supplies is scary, but Celt said she learned some valuable lessons from this unfortunate experience, including:

  • Always have a blood glucose meter and plenty of strips. “I had somehow failed to bring a meter,” she said. “Lesson learned 100 times over. I now carry a meter and more strips than I will need with me in my purse, even if only headed out for just a few hours!” Make sure that you have all the diabetes supplies you need to manage high or low blood sugar – including your medications and insulin, emergency glucagon, glucose tablets or small snacks, and a blood ketone meter.
  • Having a cell phone battery charger can come in handy. “What saved me when I did get our bags was a 72-hour backup phone charger,” she said. “It allowed me to finally see my blood glucose digits in real time again!” Make sure you have emergency backup batteries and chargers.
  • Research what services will be available to you in the event of an emergency (hospitals, pharmacies, stores to pick up low supplies, etc.). Though this was not her first diabetes travel fumble, being stuck in the dark in a landslide rattled her enough that she now packs back-up diabetes supplies for her back-ups!
  • Don’t be afraid to cause a “fuss” or make a scene if it means having access to the things you need to stay alive. “I should have held onto my bag and helped them understand my life depends on these supplies,” she said. “I was afraid and embarrassed to make an already challenging situation difficult.”

Atkinson stressed that same point, “When evacuating or during any emergency situation,” she said, “define yourself as an insulin dependent person living with diabetes, if you are one. Speak up for yourself.”

In April 2021, Celt was thrown into yet another natural disaster scenario – one that that she had no way to prepare for.

She and her family were camping with friends in the sand dunes not far from their home in Boise, Idaho. They’re fairly seasoned campers, and this was supposed to be just a quick weekend getaway, nothing extreme as far as adventure goes.

She was cruising along in their kayak with her young daughter Madeline and her friend while her husband was in another boat fishing with the others.

“I began to feel the air change and heard sirens from a nearby air base,” Celt recalled. “I saw picnickers scrambling on the shore and then I looked up. What I saw was something I can hardly detail with words. The largest, most sky covering, thunderous sounding wall of sand was charging towards us. It was picking up trees and boats, tossing around bikes and pieces of campers on the land.”

Natural disaster

Image source: Cynthia Celt

Later they learned the storm had overturned semi-trucks and vehicles along the highway. It was what is known as a Haboob, a desert sandstorm common on the Arabian peninsula.

Thankfully before it hit, they were able to make it to shore. Celt grabbed the two small children and slung the dry bag carrying all her diabetes “gear” over her arm.

When out on the water all of her diabetes supplies are always stashed together in a single dry bag. That makes it easy for her to “grab and go”.

“I ran for the hopeful safety of our SUV perched on a shore ridge,” she said. “We piled in and watched as it thundered toward us.”

After several hours they were able to drive to their camper, only to find it ravaged by the storm. The winds did not let up for three days, and they slept in their SUV overnight. However, this time they were a bit more prepared. Celt said, “We always keep an emergency/hidden stash of low supplies, food, and water in the vehicle when camping.”

This scenario was a stark reminder of how quickly disaster can hit. Celt’s words of advice: “It’s impossible to be prepared at all times when living with diabetes. But having your supplies organized, and easy to access and grab on the way out, is incredibly valuable.”

Natural disaster

Image source: Amber Clour

In a different kind of emergency earlier this year, when the pandemic was raging, I packed my bags and relocated to San Antonio, Texas. My casita was the perfect isolation get away, until disaster struck. An unexpected cold front lingered in areas of central Texas where the people and the infrastructure were not equipped to handle below zero temperatures and power outages.

I lost power for days, but fortunately had a gas stove and access to a wood burning fireplace. I also was able to connect with neighbors, and we pooled our resources.

I didn’t fear freezing to death, but I worried my insulin might freeze. However, in the haze of stress I was feeling, I reminded myself the refrigerator wouldn’t get colder than it already was – and the insulation would keep my insulin from freezing. It wasn’t rocket science, but it was clear that my decision fatigue was in full swing. In a situation like this, when freezing your insulin is of great concern, diaTribe’s scientific and medical advisor Dr. Francine Kaufman suggested that you take out a fresh bottle of the insulin you need (basal, prandial, or both) and keep it either in a pocket or a small pack next to your skin. This way you know that you’ll have insulin that won’t freeze.

Stress, both mental and physical, can make diabetes management a nightmare. Keeping my cell phone charged for my CGM data was crucial. Luckily, my Subaru had plenty of gas, so once a day I would sit in the car parked on the street just outside my casita, crank up the heat and charge my phone.

But just when I thought we could get back to normal, our area was notified the water was not safe to drink. I’ve never been in a situation like this and was thankful to have the gas stove to boil water when needed. Not an ideal situation, but I managed.

This entire situation made me think deeply about what’s important when faced with a natural disaster and what things I can realistically do to prepare in advance. Here’s my checklist:

  • HAVE THE EMERGENCY KIT READY TO GO way before an emergency, with a list of all the supplies already in it and what you need to add before you go – like your insulin
  • If you are going to shelter in place, prepare by stocking up on your diabetes supplies and things like non-perishable food, water, batteries, toilet paper, etc., when your budget allows.
  • STAY CALM. It’s okay to be scared and worried, but having your wits about you will make it easier to focus on the items you need to pack.
  • It’s okay to ask for help whether it be for emotional support or supplies. Don’t be embarrassed to contact friends, family, neighbors, local shelters, food pantries, churches, and patient assistance programs. You can also always go to an urgent care facility or hospital if needed. Don’t hesitate in these situations and do what is best for your health and safety.

After some trial and error, I developed a system that makes chaotic situations easier for me to manage. I try to ask myself in these situations, what will I need to survive for at least the next 30 days? Below is a checklist that helps me stay focused.

  1. First, I inventory my supplies so I know what I have and where it is located.
  2. Then I locate a waterproof tub or bag (purchased well in advance) that I can pack my supplies into.
  3. Finally, I start packing my supplies, including:
    • Insulin in a refrigerated case – this is the very last thing I throw in the tub when I am headed to an emergency shelter
    • Syringes for my medication
    • A copy of all my prescriptions
    • Blood glucose meter and plenty of test strips
    • Any CGM supplies I might need including sensors, applicators, and my phone
    • Insulin pump supplies
    • Low blood sugar snacks and glucose tablets
    • Other medications I might need (such as an inhaler, blood pressure pills, glucagon pen, etc.)
    • My driver’s license, passport, cash, and credit cards
    • My diabetes bracelet or disability jewelry
    • Emergency supplies like a flashlight

No one wants to prepare for a natural disaster, but if you take the time now to make sure you have everything you need, you won’t throw your diabetes under the bus when catastrophe strikes.

Below are a few helpful sites to make your natural disaster preparation easy:

And check out some other articles you might want to visit for tips and tricks:

About Amber

Amber Clour was born and raised in Norman, Oklahoma. Twenty-one days after her eighth birthday, she was rushed to Children’s Hospital where she spent two weeks learning how to live her new life with type 1 diabetes.

Since then, her life has been filled pursuing her passion for art, advocacy, non-profit ventures and travel. In 2015 she stepped down as Executive Director for a community artspace and gallery she founded to co-found DiabetesDailyGrind.com and the Real Life Diabetes Podcast. Amber’s – no filter – approach to sharing an honest look into her daily life resonates with many in the diabetes community. She hopes her story and those of podcast guests remind ALL people living diabetes – you are NOT alone.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Three Strategies for Heart Healthy Eating

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Constance Brown-Riggs

Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RDN, CDCES, CDN, is a national speaker and author of several nutrition books for people with diabetes.

​Nutritionist and educator Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RDN, CDCES, CDN, discusses the relationship between food and heart health, and how you can make eating choices to prevent heart disease.

If you have diabetes, you are at a much higher risk for heart disease. The good news is, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. What you eat is one of the most important steps to managing diabetes and reducing your chances of heart complications. What are the three main ways to do this? Choose heart-healthy fats, heart-healthy carbs, and reduce sodium in your diet.

Many people find that changing eating behavior is very hard. But it doesn’t have to be that way – not if you take the right approach. Some people use a food tracker to see how much of certain nutrients like carbohydrates, fat, salt, they are eating. And research shows that making small, gradual changes works best. Rather than drastically changing your eating habits in a day, start with setting just a few small, achievable goals that you can stick with. To help you get started, you will find tips and “small wins” throughout this article – these step-by-step changes can make your meals and recipes healthier for your heart.

Education is key to managing diabetes and heart health. Click here to learn about Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) services to help you live well and navigate your diabetes journey – and check out the Diabetes Food Hub for even more resources.

1: Choose Your Fat Wisely

Dietary fat often gets a bad rap. So, it might surprise you to know that fat plays a vital role in our health. We need fat to insulate our body, protect our vital organs, and transport and absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Fat is also the most concentrated energy source for the body, providing nine calories per gram, more than double what is found in carbohydrates and protein. And when it comes to food, there is no denying fats’ ability to make food taste good.

Fats are made up of fatty acids that are linked together. There are three types of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. The predominant type of fat in a food determines which category the food falls into:

  • Saturated fat is usually solid at room temperature and is found mainly in foods that come from animals, such as meat, lard, bacon, poultry, dairy products, and eggs. Coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and palm oil are also saturated fats. This type of fat can cause your body to produce too much cholesterol (a natural substance that the body needs, but in limited quantities – read all about cholesterol here).
  • Monounsaturated fat is usually liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fat is mainly found in vegetable oils such as canola and olive oils, avocadoes, and peanuts. Monounsaturated fats are often called heart-healthy fats because they don’t cause higher cholesterol levels.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid or soft at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fat is found mostly in vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn, and flaxseed. It’s also found in walnuts and fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring, and mackerel. Polyunsaturated fats are also heart-healthy fats because they don’t increase cholesterol levels.
  • Trans fats are polyunsaturated fats that have been chemically changed to make them stay solid at room temperature. Hydrogenated vegetable oils such as vegetable shortening and margarine contain trans-fatty acids – as do the foods you make with these oils. Trans fats act like saturated fat in the body, raising your cholesterol levels. The American Diabetes Association recommends avoiding foods with trans fats as much as possible.

When it comes to the heart, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are much better for you. Read “Dietary Fat: The Good, The Bad, and The In-Between” to learn more. Here are some tips for adding more heart-healthy fats to your diet:

Small Win:  Shift the fat you use from saturated to healthy oils, like olive and canola. Chef Wesley McWhorter, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says, “Don’t forget to add healthy fats in your recipes from things like avocado, beans, nuts, and seeds – which will also keep you full longer and prevent overeating.”

Small Win: Try a “protein flip.” Chef McWhorter suggests you keep the animal proteins and their fats that you love but shift the proportion of the ingredients. For example, instead of an all-beef burger, make a half vegetable burger by adding beans and veggies or mushrooms. “Blended burgers are great because the moisture from the mushrooms actually makes your burger taste better,” says McWhorter.

Tips for Choosing Heart-Healthy Fats

Healthy eating facts

Image source: diaTribe

Remember: Choose low-fat and reduced-calorie foods wisely because they can contain more added carbohydrate than the full-fat version.

2: Opt for Heart Healthy Carbohydrates

There are three main types of carbohydrates: sugar, starch, and fiber.

  • Sugar is called by many names – simple sugar, table sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, turbinado, demerara, maple syrup, molasses, honey, and high-fructose corn syrup. Simple sugars are often referred to as fast-acting because they rapidly raise blood sugar levels. Sugars may be added to foods or occur naturally, like the fructose in fruit and lactose in milk.

Foods made with added sugars tend to have little or no nutritional value and are usually high in calories and fat. Simple sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup, raise triglyceride levels which is associated with heart disease. And when it comes to blood sugar levels, foods with added sugar like cookies, donuts, and cakes lead to blood sugar levels spiking which, when treated with insulin, can cause large, unpredictable blood sugar swings – also not good for the heart.

  • Starch is a complex carbohydrate. It’s made from lots of simple sugars that are linked together in long chains. Complex carbohydrate foods include whole-grain bread and cereal, starchy vegetables (green peas, corn, lima beans, potatoes), and dried beans (pinto beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, and split peas). Unlike fast-acting carbohydrates, starches are slowly broken down during digestion, resulting in a lower, steadier release of sugar into the bloodstream.
  • Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. Fiber is the indigestible part of any plant food, including the leaves of vegetables, fruit skins, and seeds. Fiber helps to move food waste out of the body and may help lower cholesterol and keep your blood sugar in range. Dietary fiber is found in foods that come from plants, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocados, beans, peas, lentils, and whole grains.

Increase Fiber

Fiber is important for heart health and keeping your blood sugar in range. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes eat at least 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories – or about 28 grams of fiber per day for women and 34 grams of fiber per day for men. However, increasing fiber too quickly can cause gas, bloating, and constipation. Before increasing your fiber intake, figure out approximately how much fiber you are currently eating.

Aim to increase your daily fiber intake slowly – on week one, increase your daily fiber intake by two or three grams, then the following week increase it by two to three more, until you’ve reached your goal. In addition, increase the amount of water you drink. This will help prevent constipation. If you begin to experience gas or bloating, slow down – instead of changing every  week, change your daily fiber by two to three grams every other week.

Small Win: McWhorter suggests swapping processed grains like pasta for whole grains like farro, millet, quinoa, or bulgur. Fiber is one of the best things for your heart, and whole grains are a great way to get more of it,” says McWhorter. “The good thing is there are so many delicious, whole grains out there.”

Tips for Choosing Heart-Healthy Carbs

Healthy eating facts

Image source: diaTribe

3: Slash the Sodium in Your Food

Your body needs sodium (or salt) for normal muscle and nerve functions and to keep your body fluids in balance. But, too much sodium in your diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes, as well as bloating, puffiness, and weight gain. Most people eat about 3,400 mg of sodium a day – almost double what’s recommended by the American Heart Association. People with diabetes and prediabetes are encouraged to consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day – that’s about one teaspoon of table salt – to care for their hearts.

Despite what you may think, over 70% of dietary sodium comes from eating packaged and prepared foods – not from table salt added to food when cooking or eating. Reading the nutrition facts label on packaged and prepared foods is the best way to make informed decisions about how much sodium you eat.

Small Win: McWhorter suggests building flavor throughout the cooking process. “It’s important to focus on how to add flavor through herbs, spices, acid, and texture, which can help you reduce the sometimes, excessive saturated fat, sugar, and salt in your dishes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new seasonings and get away from the typical ‘salt and pepper’ approach. Trust me – flavor matters,” McWhorter says.

Tips to Reduce Sodium

Healthy eating facts

Image source: diaTribe

Remember, homemade food typically contains less sodium than prepared food (whether it’s canned, frozen, packaged, or from a restaurant). This is also true for sauces like pasta sauce, barbeque sauce, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, and salsa. As much as possible, aim to buy fresh, unprocessed ingredients and turn them into your favorite dishes. For heart-healthy recipes, click here.

Overall, the key to a heart-healthy meal plan is variety: fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats like avocados or olive oil. When revamping meals, chef McWhorter recommends starting with the whole plate in mind. “Our meals are most often focused on the main protein versus the whole plate. What is left leaves little room for creativity and deliciousness for the fiber-rich and nutrient-dense vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds that we really want (and need) on our plate,” McWhorter says. And remember to start with small wins on your path to heart healthy eating.

Learn more about nutrition here.

This article is part of a series to help people with diabetes learn how to support heart health, made possible in part by the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association’s Know Diabetes by Heart initiative.

About Constance

Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RDN, CDCES, CDN, is a national speaker and author of Living Well with Diabetes 14 Day Devotional: A Faith Based Approach to Diabetes Self-ManagementDiabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World, a convenient guide to help people with diabetes enjoy all the flavors of the world while still following a healthy meal plan, and The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes. Learn more about Constance and follow her on Instagram Twitter, and Facebook.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Hitting a Nerve: Introduction to Neuropathy

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Cheryl Alkon

What is neuropathy? And more specifically, what is diabetic neuropathy? What are the symptoms and how can you prevent and treat neuropathy?

When someone hears about the long-term complications of diabetes, problems with the feet, foot ulcers, and even amputations are often brought up and can be some of the scariest outcomes. What leads to these issues is something called neuropathy, or damage to the nerves.

But neuropathy, and those subsequent complications, aren’t by any means a given – and prevention is possible. What is neuropathy and what can you do to avoid it entirely, or minimize it so that you can keep your feet, and the rest of your body, as healthy as possible?

What is the difference between neuropathy and diabetic neuropathy?

Neuropathy is the term used to describe any damage to nerves in the body (for example, an injury from a car accident can damage the nerves). Diabetic neuropathy, or diabetes-related neuropathy, is the term used to specifically describe the nerve damage from high glucose levels (hyperglycemia) over the long term.

Diabetes can cause three main types of neuropathies: peripheral neuropathy (medically referred to as distal symmetric sensorimotor polyneuropathy), autonomic neuropathy, and focal neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy affects the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord, and often leads to symptoms involving the hands and feet. “This is what most people associate with diabetes-related neuropathy,” said Chris Memering, a nurse and inpatient diabetes care and education specialist at CarolinaEast Health System in New Bern, North Carolina.

Peripheral neuropathy involving the feet is the most common form of diabetic neuropathy. Loss of function in particular nerve fibers can change sensation and reduce strength in the foot. Loss of sensation can lead to injury from shoes that don’t fit, stepping on sharp objects you can’t feel, or not knowing the sidewalk is too hot. Neuropathy can also lead to pain, burning or other unpleasant sensations which may respond to medication.

But diabetes isn’t the only condition that can cause peripheral neuropathy. Other conditions that can lead to peripheral neuropathy include heavy alcohol consumption, trauma, nerve entrapment (such as that which occurs in carpal tunnel syndrome), vitamin B deficiency, chemotherapy, and an autoimmune process that attacks the nerves.

Neuropathy can also affect the functioning of the autonomic nervous system (which controls things like blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and bowel and bladder function). This is called autonomic neuropathy. Autonomic neuropathy can lead to a variety of complications.

“In diabetes care, many people are familiar with hypoglycemia unawareness, erectile dysfunction or female sexual dysfunction, gastroparesis [when the stomach can’t empty properly and digestion slows], neurogenic bladder [when the nerves that tell your brain to tighten or release the bladder muscles don’t operate properly], or orthostatic blood pressure changes [dropping blood pressure when you stand up],” Memering said, adding that all these could be a result of neuropathy.

Finally, focal neuropathy results from issues with one or more nerve roots and usually happens suddenly. Focal neuropathies often involve both motor functioning – such as weakness – and sensory deficits, which can cause discomfort and pain.

What causes neuropathy?

Chronic hyperglycemia can damage both small and large nerve fibers. Over time, elevated glucose levels, often made worse by high triglycerides (a type of fat that can be found in the blood) and associated with inflammation (the body’s natural way of fighting infection) can cause damage to the nerves. That damage disrupts the way nerves interpret sensory information and how the messages about sensation are transmitted to the brain.

Usually, nerve damage from high blood sugar levels happens in the long nerves first (which run from your spine down to your toes), which is why the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy occur first in the feet. “The length of time someone has lived with diabetes increases their risk of developing neuropathies, as does that person’s level of blood glucose, in terms of A1C, Time in Range, and glucose variability,” Memering explained.

In essence, higher glucose levels over time increases your risk for developing neuropathy. This was confirmed by the famous Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) and Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications study (EDIC). The studies showed that the prevalence of confirmed peripheral neuropathy was 64% lower among participants in the intensive management group (those who managed their blood glucose carefully with treatment and kept their levels as close to normal as possible).

What does neuropathy feel like?

Symptoms of neuropathy usually start in the toes and progress upward. The sensations experienced with peripheral neuropathy differ from person to person. Some describe the feelings they have as numbness or tingling, while others say it feels like burning. Some say they are sensitive to being touched and cannot bear the feeling of a sheet or blanket covering their feet, while others describe it as feeling like they are always wearing a sock or a glove.

“Ultimately, you could end up losing protective sensation – which can be very dangerous and puts you at risk of not realizing when a part of your body is hurting or being injured,” Memering said. “While you may be able to still feel pressure – you know you are stepping on the ground with your foot – you may not be able to feel pain if you step on something sharp or hot.” This means you might not withdraw your foot from the unsafe environment, harming it further, and without realizing the extent of the damage.

The biggest concern about peripheral neuropathy involving the feet is that the loss of normal pain sensation can lead to greater skin and tissue damage. “Injury can result in the formation of a foot ulcer, which, if infected, can progress to ongoing tissue damage that can lead to amputation,” said Dr. Robert Gabbay, the chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association. That’s why it’s so important to prevent, recognize, and treat any symptoms of neuropathy.

How is neuropathy diagnosed?

To assess for neuropathy, your healthcare team should do a thorough examination of your feet looking for sores or ulcers, changes in skin color, diminished pulses and any abnormality or injury to your foot. They can test for diminished strength, a change in your ability to know the position of your toes, and a change in sensation or sensory perception.

A foot exam will always involve taking off your socks and shoes, and your healthcare professional will inspect your feet to check for color changes, pulses, open areas, redness, rashes, and the overall condition of your feet, said Dr. Cecilia C. Low Wang, a professor of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism at the University of Colorado Anschultz School of Medicine.

A monofilament test uses a soft fiber to test for sensation in various parts of the feet and body, and a tuning fork can also help healthcare professionals understand how much sensation a person has lost. The monofilament test, as well as a pinprick test, can check to make sure you have good sensation, while other tests will evaluate vibration and position sense (whether you are aware of where your foot is). “The main question I would suggest asking your diabetes provider is whether they notice anything concerning about your foot exam, and whether they think you need to do anything different, or see an additional specialist, such as a podiatrist,” said Dr. Low Wang.

In this age of telehealth visits, some podiatrists have been sending a monofilament (a small strand of nylon attached to a piece of plastic) to a person’s home and teaching them how to use it to determine if they have reduced sensation in different areas of the feet. Podiatrists might even examine a person’s foot onscreen during a video visit and ask questions about how the foot feels or looks. “If there’s something of concern, they will schedule an in-person visit,” added Memering.

If someone is experiencing symptoms of autonomic neuropathy, a healthcare professional may recommend a specific test depending on what the autonomic symptoms are. For example, if there are issues with blood pressure control, taking your blood pressure as you change positions from lying to sitting to standing or using a formal tilt-table test, may show loss of autonomic control of how your body regulates your blood pressure. If you have symptoms of delayed gastric-emptying (stomach-emptying), specialized radiology tests might be ordered that show the time it takes for food to exit the stomach. The Mayo Clinic has an informative list about many of these tests. If you have any symptoms of autonomic neuropathy, such as bladder or erectile dysfunction, feeling faint on standing up, or bloating and fullness, talk to your healthcare professional and explain what you are experiencing.

What are the best treatment options for neuropathy, especially in the hands and feet?

Although it is not always possible to prevent neuropathy completely, the best way to slow its progression (as shown in the DCCT) is to closely manage your blood sugar levels and try to stay in range as much of the time as possible. If neuropathy does develop, medications can decrease the burning and tingling sensations, said Dr. Gabbay.

“Diabetes is a leading cause of neuropathy, and the higher someone’s blood sugar levels are over time, the more likely they are to develop neuropathy,” Dr. Gabbay said. “The good news is by managing blood sugar levels, one can significantly reduce their risk of developing neuropathy.”

With painful neuropathy, “treatments are generally to try to manage symptoms,” Memering said. “Medications such as Neurontin [gabapentin, a drug used for pain and seizures], Lyrica [pregabalin, a drug used for pain and seizures], or Cymbalta [duloxetine, a drug used for chemical balance in the brain] may be used to help with pain associated with painful peripheral neuropathies. These medications can be very effective, but it may take a few weeks to adjust and find the right dose. However, people should know that the medications can also be somewhat sedating.” Other drugs that may be effective include drugs used for mood disorders such as venlafaxine, nortriptyline, or amitriptyline, said Dr. Low Wang, but they may have side effects at higher doses and with older age.

Dr. Gabbay added that neuropathy “is a very active area of research to identify new and effective treatments.”

There are also various treatments to help improve the symptoms of autonomic neuropathy:

  • For Postural Blood Pressure Changes:
    • If you have a significant decrease in your blood pressure on standing, your healthcare professional can teach you how to get up slowly to allow your body to regulate your blood pressure with positional change.
    • You can also wear an abdominal binder, which Memering described as “a big elastic girdle that puts more pressure on the big blood vessels in the body,” so that they have more support when changing positions.
    • Other treatments include adjusting salt intake, using compression stockings, doing physical activity to avoid deconditioning, and staying hydrated, said Dr. Low Wang.
  • For Neurogenic Bladder:
    • If you are experiencing a neurogenic bladder, urinating at regular intervals during the day and night can help the bladder empty even if you no longer feel the urge to urinate. You might also undergo a urinalysis or a bladder scan, said Dr. Low Wang. Medications can also help.
  • For Gastroparesis:
    • Eating low-fiber, low-fat foods in smaller and more frequent meals and getting a greater proportion of calories from liquids might help, said Dr. Low Wang.
    • Sometimes the drug metoclopramide (Reglan) may be prescribed and gastric electrical stimulation might be used in severe cases.
  • For Erectile Dysfunction:
    • You may be prescribed one of the medications – sildenafil, tadalafil, avanafil, or vandenafil – but you may also need to undergo a physical exam, or other tests.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of neuropathy, you should speak with your healthcare professional to determine what diagnostic tests need to be done and what treatment course might be best for you.

Can you reverse diabetic neuropathy?

Currently, neuropathy can’t be reversed, but its progression may be slowed. Keeping blood sugar levels in the recommended targets is the key to doing so, Memering said. “The use of diabetes technology may be very helpful – especially continuous glucose monitors – for keeping your blood sugar in range, along with eating a varied diet, including vegetables and fruits, and exercising regularly,” she said.

Tips for living with diabetes and neuropathy

The two best things someone with diabetic neuropathy can do are to:

  1. Manage their blood sugar levels to keep the neuropathy from getting worse.
  2. Check their feet regularly, both at home and during healthcare appointments.

Check your feet at home

Dr. Gabbay, Dr. Low Wang, and Memering each recommended that all people with diabetes, whether young or old, newly diagnosed or not, should regularly check their feet. Dr. Gabbay advised, “Use a mirror to see the bottoms of the feet and make sure there are no cuts or ulcerations” that would need immediate attention to ensure they don’t worsen. If need be, ask someone in your household to help you inspect your feet.
To help avoid foot injury, Dr. Low Wang recommended: “Always wear socks and well-fitting shoes, avoid going barefoot, and look at shoes before putting them on to be sure there is nothing in them.”

No matter where you are in your diabetes journey, daily foot checks “partly establish the habit before there are any problems, but are also a way to get to know your body so you can understand what is normal for you and what is not,” Memering said. “That way, when there is a change, you can all your healthcare office right away. Don’t wait until your next appointment ­ – call,” she said, adding that they should be able to tell you if you need to make an appointment right away.

Remember, as with many complications of diabetes, for neuropathy prevention is key! To learn more, view or download our infographic on preventing neuropathy.

About Cheryl

Cheryl Alkon is a seasoned writer and the author of the book Balancing Pregnancy With Pre-Existing Diabetes: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby. The book has been called “Hands down, the best book on type 1 diabetes and pregnancy, covering all the major issues that women with type 1 face. It provides excellent tips and secrets for achieving the best management” by Gary Scheiner, the author of Think Like A Pancreas. Since 2010, the book has helped countless women around the world conceive, grow and deliver healthy babies while also dealing with diabetes.

Cheryl covers diabetes and other health and medical topics for various print and online clients. She lives in Massachusetts with her family and holds an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and a graduate degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

She has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than four decades, since being diagnosed in 1977 at age seven.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Research Trends with Dr. Maria: Beta Cells, Botox, and More

Dr. Maria Muccioli holds degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology and has over ten years of research experience in the immunology field. She is currently a professor of biology at Stratford University and a science writer at Diabetes Daily. Dr. Maria has been living well with type 1 diabetes since 2008 and is passionate about diabetes research and outreach.

In this recurring article series, Dr. Maria will present some snapshots of recent diabetes research, and especially exciting studies than may fly under the mainstream media radar.

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Even Very Slightly Elevated Blood Glucose May Impact Beta Cells

When diabetes first develops, a reduction in insulin production initially results in just a slight elevation of blood glucose. A just-published study by researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center employed cell culture and mouse models to assess how very slight elevations in blood glucose levels might affect the beta cells. Interestingly, the scientists discovered that even slight perturbations in glycemia (*as little as “being only 11 mg/dL higher than controls) could result in gene expression changes in the beta cells. The major conclusion of the investigation was that “mild glucose elevations in the early stages of diabetes lead to phenotypic changes that adversely affect beta cell function, growth, and vulnerability.” Continuing to investigate exactly how the early stages of diabetes may affect disease progression may aid in the development of treatments aimed at slowing or halting disease progression by preserving or improving beta cell function. This study also underscores the importance of early diabetes detection and treatment.

Different Subtypes of Type 1 Diabetes Classed by Age at Diagnosis

The pathophysiology of type 1 diabetes is complex, although it is generally accepted that in most cases, a genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger result in disease onset. A research study that was recently published in the journal Diabetologia aimed to investigate different subsets (endotypes) of type 1 diabetes by evaluating the level of insulin production from recently-diagnosed patients. Interestingly, the authors report that in patients who were diagnosed prior to age 30, “there are distinct endotypes that correlate with age at diagnosis”. Specifically, the new research showed that those who were diagnosed at a very young age (before seven years old) exhibited more defective insulin processing as compared to those diagnosed at age 13 and older. The scientists believe that stratifying type 1 diabetes cases by endotype will prove useful in the most appropriate design of immunotherapies to treat the condition.

Male and Female Offspring May Be Differently Affected by Maternal Diabetes

Hyperglycemia during pregnancy can negatively affect the offspring. A study published in April 2020 in the journal Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health indicates that the effects of hyperglycemia on central nervous system development may affect male and female offspring differently. Notably, the authors concluded that while hyperglycemia could cause developmental defects in males in females, when it came to “impairments in recognition memory,” specifically, it was found that only the females were negatively affected. Although this research was performed in rodents, it offers valuable insights into how maternal diabetes may affect offspring development in a sex-specific way. Notably, it was also demonstrated that insulin administration to achieve strict glycemic control mitigated the negative effects, once again highlighting the importance of optimal glycemic management before and during pregnancy.

Botox Injection Plus High-Protein Diet for Obesity Treatment

Interestingly, the injection of botulinum toxin (Botox) has been shown effective in the treatment of obesity. A research study recently published in the journal Obesity Surgery evaluated the efficacy of botulinum toxin injections alongside a calorie-restricted, high-protein diet for weight loss. Participants were assigned to one of three groups: 1) botulinum toxin treatment only; 2) botulinum toxin treatment + calorie-restricted/high-protein diet; or 3) calorie-restricted/high-protein diet alone. Excitingly, the results showed that patients who received botulinum toxin treatment prior to initiating the diet protocol achieved faster weight loss and experienced more positive effects in improving comorbidities. The authors theorize that botulinum toxin treatment may help “facilitate adaptation to the new diet style”.

“Kitchen Intervention” in Type 2 Diabetes Education Helps Improve Outcomes

Several educational intervention programs aimed at improving glycemic management in patients with type 2 diabetes were compared in a recent initiative by the Milwaukie Family Medicine center in Oregon. A traditional diabetes education class was implemented for one group of patients, while a second group was assigned to the traditional education program, along with a “health-focused, budget-friendly cooking class” provided by the Providence Milwaukie Community Teaching Kitchen. Hemoglobin A1c measurements were acquired at baseline, and at several months post-intervention. The recently published results demonstrated that patients who participated in the cooking class intervention, lowered their A1c levels more, on average, than those who attended the traditional education program alone. Although this initiative was a small one and yields very preliminary results, the outcomes suggest that intervention programs focused on real-life applications (like budgeting and cooking) may afford better patient outcomes.

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Please share your thoughts with us and stay tuned for more recent research updates!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Another CGM Approved in Europe for Pregnancy: Dexcom G6 Joins Freestyle Libre

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Divya Gopisetty

In Europe, the Dexcom G6 CGM received approval for pregnant women with diabetes

Dexcom’s G6 continuous glucose monitor (CGMreceived European approval (“CE Mark”) to be used by women with diabetes during pregnancy. This official label is set to launch in spring of 2020 and will apply to women with type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes. The Dexcom G6 is already approved for people with diabetes over the age of two.

CGM can help provide awareness of blood glucose trends, which is especially important for pregnant women and their babies. The 2019 ADA Standards of Care recommend that pregnant women with gestational, type 1, or type 2 diabetes spend the majority of the day in the tighter blood sugar range of 63-140 mg/dl. CGM can allow people with diabetes to work with their healthcare team to better understand their time in range and improve their diabetes management by reducing hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.

During pregnancy, insulin (the hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy and lowers blood sugar) may not be able to perform its typical role due to interference from other hormones produced by the developing baby. With gestational diabetes, the body’s insulin can’t keep blood sugar levels in the target range. This leads to higher blood sugar levels that can cause health risks for both the mother and baby.

You can learn more about diabetes during pregnancy here. The late gestational diabetes guru Dr. Lois Jovanovic also shared a few pieces of advice for pregnant women with diabetes. We encourage you to consider these tips as you communicate with your support system and healthcare professional.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Pregnancy, Delivery, and Postpartum Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Almost any pregnancy is full of excitement but can be stressful at times. Add in having diabetes and living through a global pandemic, and it can be quite anxiety-provoking. This article summarizes how recent policy changes due to COVID-19 may be affecting women with diabetes who are currently pregnant or have recently given birth.

A High-Risk Pregnancy

For women with diabetes, pregnancy is automatically classed as a high-risk affair. Although a healthy pregnancy is very possible with any type of diabetes, a lot of emphasis is placed on optimizing glycemic management, and women are closely followed with extra appointments and ultrasound scans throughout the pregnancy, and in particular, during the third trimester.

Telemedicine and In-Person Appointments

For those who are going through pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic, certain appointments may be possible to achieve via telemedicine. For example, if you’re working with an endocrinologist to manage your blood sugar levels, odds are, that can be achieved largely through telemedicine (or email). However, certain other checks (like ultrasounds), or if a woman is experiencing concerns or complications, there is no substitute for an in-person healthcare provider or even a hospital visit.

Ask your provider(s) which in-person appointments they expect you to keep and why. Also, keep in mind that there will likely be additional precautions, like waiting in your vehicle, instead of the waiting room, for example.

To curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, most doctors’ offices and hospitals have now implemented strict policies concerning the number of visitors who are allowed at appointments. Most will find that for all (or almost all) appointments, women will be asked to come to their appointment without any additional visitors.

Of course, these new policies, while important, also can bring up considerable emotional issues. Pregnancy is supposed to be an exciting time, most often shared with loved ones, like your partner and family. Milestone appointments, attended alone, may feel bittersweet.

To help increase support during these times, ask your healthcare providers what their specific policies are and inquire whether it is possible to have your support person or people attend with you virtually. For instance, you may find that your practice will allow your partner to phone in via videochat to virtually experience a milestone ultrasound, and will give them an opportunity to ask any questions that they might have. While not the same as under normal circumstances, this can offer women more emotional support during these exciting (and challenging) times.

Labor and Delivery

One fear that many women are expressing these days (and rightfully so!) is one of having to labor and deliver their babies without a support person. While formal “birth plans” are notorious for falling apart (at least somewhat, as no birth is predictable), this is perhaps the first time in our recent history that women have to worry about not being able to have their emotional support system in place for the big event.

It appears that most hospitals are balancing the need for limiting viral spread with the importance of emotional support for patients during this critical time. Most likely, your hospital will allow one support person to attend your labor and delivery (although this may not be the case everywhere, especially in COVID-19 disease epicenters). However, be prepared that they may not be able to accompany you during the postpartum hospital stay. Ask your hospital ahead of time what the policy is (also for vaginal delivery vs. c-section) so you can be prepared. Also, you may find that (if deemed appropriate) your discharge from the hospital may happen sooner than what is typical.

Diabetes online community member, Shannon M. (who has type 1 diabetes) described to us her challenging experience with delivering her baby boy amid the COVID-19 outbreak:

“I planned on being induced at 39 weeks but was induced the day I hit 38 weeks due to the doctors personal concern about the virus. The hospital was also thinking of starting to allow no help in the delivery room and they wanted to make sure I had someone there with me, as well as to get in and out of the hospital before the virus spread got even worse. My biggest concern the entire time ended up being for the virus rather than health of the baby in general.

While I was in labor, they decided I needed an emergency c-section and took me into another room. I was concerned about going into so many different rooms because that increased my chances of getting the virus rather than being afraid of the c-section itself.

After everything, my baby was taken to NICU for low blood sugars. As I had expected this, I wasn’t too worried, but again, worried about his extended stay in the hospital because of the virus. This also meant I had to visit him daily in the hospital, which concerned me, trying to not get the virus myself and transfer it to him or the rest of my family.

They only let me recover one day in the hospital from the c-section, when it’s usually three days. The social worker admitted to me the cases were getting bad in our hospital and just wanted everyone who didn’t absolutely have to be there, out. Everyone had to wear masks and gloves throughout the hospital. One of my nurses continued to not wear her mask around me and it made me very paranoid.

My baby is still in the NICU. It has now been 13 days and I still have anxiety visiting him. I don’t leave his room to eat or use the restroom unless I absolutely have to. It’s been a horrible experience and cannot wait to get him home. I also live in Essex county NJ, which is the second-worst infected county in the second-most infected state, as we are 20 minutes from NYC.”

Postpartum Care

In addition to possibly leaving the hospital earlier than expected, women are likely going to experience more isolation than they normally would. Importantly, this can affect the rates of postpartum depression, which is of great concern.

Taking time every day for essential self-care and human connection is important for all new moms and is perhaps even more critical during these tough times. Having a support system in place, even if you’re only able to communicate remotely, can help women feel more supported.

Photo credit: smpratt90 (Pixabay)

While many women will probably attend their 6-week postpartum check-up (especially for birth control, like an IUD), this may not be the case for those who don’t have any upcoming procedures, questions or concerns (I actually cancelled my own 6-week postpartum check-up that was supposed to take place mid-March). Be sure to bring up any physical or mental health concerns to your doctor right away. Don’t forget that many issues can be addressed via telemedicine (e.g., mental health appointments), so you can safely stay at home with your baby.

Also, don’t forget to check in with your pediatrician’s office about what their policies are. Most likely, only one parent will be able to attend the child’s well-visit appointments. Some appointments may even be postponed, depending on the specific circumstances.

Jennifer A., who delivered her son at the end of March, describes:

“My son has only had one appointment over a phone chat. It was OK. I prefer to keep him safe but I also want to make sure my son is healthy and growing right and that is hard to tell over a phone.”

Conclusions

Going through pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the postpartum period, while also managing diabetes, is difficult enough but can feel overwhelming during a global virus pandemic. Understanding that the inconvenient policies are there to help protect you and your baby, and getting the mental health and emotional support you need during and after pregnancy is key to keeping the big picture in mind and being able to enjoy this very special time.

Are you currently pregnant or have recently had a baby during this crisis? We’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Joslin Diabetes Center: A Global Leader in Research and Care

Learn about the mission and diabetes advocacy efforts of the Joslin Diabetes Center. Check out this summary to learn more about who they are, what they do, and more.
Source: diabetesdaily.com

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