The diabetic birth plan

By | 2 April, 2013
The feet of a human baby

The feet of a human baby

I’ve found that people ask me a lot if I’ve written my birth plan yet. And I’ve got a two part answer to that question. In terms of a tradition birth plan, I’ve decided not to bother. I’m happy with my hospital’s standard procedures around the things that are important to me – stuff like having skin to skin contact straight after birth, staying mobile during labour and being helped to breastfeed. I’ve decided to take the rest of it as it comes – in theory I’d love a natural, pain relief free labour but that’s not something I can really plan for. If I decide I need pain relief at the time, I’ll make that decision then.

When it comes to diabetes though, my approach is completely different. Hypos or hypers are not desirable during labour. Hypos will make the whole thing a hundred times harder for me. And high blood sugars pass through to the baby, who in return pumps out extra insulin to deal with them. Then when she’s born and stops getting the extra sugar from me, she’ll still have all that extra insulin in her system, meaning she’s likely to go hypo. Not an ideal welcome into the world. So for me it’s really important that I do all I can to keep my BGs between around 4 and 7 during labour.

The standard approach at my hospital would be them to take control of my diabetes, using an insulin drip, testing BGs every hour and the nurses would adjust accordingly based on a pre-written scale eg if she’s an 8 give her 1 unit, if she’s a 10 give her 2 etc. I find it very stressful to have someone else meddling with my diabetes. I just don’t share well. I like to be the one in the driving seat, especially when it’s as important as this to get it right.

I want to manage my own diabetes as much as possible, and I don’t want to have to argue with a delivery team who are used to doing things a different way. So my diabetes team and I had a chat, and came up with a diabetes birth plan which gives me the freedom to manage my diabetes, unless I’m unable to do so, or decide that I no longer want to do so. In which case, the hospital will take over.

We wrote the plan from scratch, so I thought it would be useful to share in case anyone else is having similar thoughts. Feel free to steal it:

From: Alison’s diabetes team
To: Alison’s obstetrics team (plus I’ve got copies in my notes and will have them with me during labour to avoid any confusion)

I met with Alison recently to discuss management of her diabetes during labour. I think it is very likely that Alison’s glycaemic control will be better if she and her husband are allowed to self manage. We agreed the following approach: 

  1. Alison and her husband Geoff will continue to manage her diabetes using her insulin pump, CGM and regular testing during labour aiming for a target range of 4-7 mmol/l. Alison will take additional bolusses of insulin as required if her BG level is rising/is likely to rise above this threshold. Alison should be able to use Glucogel and/or dextrose tabs to treat hypoglycaemia as required. I have suggested that she doesn’t use large volume solutions such as Lucozade in case C-section is required.
  2. If Alison and Geoff are unable to maintain her BG within the agreed range, Alison should be switched to a glucose/potassium/insulin (GKI) infusion, preceded if necessary by IV insulin, aiming to maintain her BG within target range.
  3. If Alison undergoes C-section under regional anaesthesia (ie epidural so I’m still awake) she and Geoff will continue to manage her diabetes using the pump.
  4. If C-section is required under general anaesthesia (ie I’m put to sleep) standard hospital procedure should be followed as per point 2 above.

In summary, as far as possible, I think we should support Alison and Geoff and allow them to manage her diabetes with the proviso that if her BG becomes unstable or she requires general anaesthesia then standard hospital procedures should be used.

That simple letter takes away my fear of having to argue over who runs my diabetes. It means I’m confident that I will be allowed to get on with it myself, unless I’m incapable or decide that I don’t want to, in which case the hospital will take over. That leaves my mind free to think about more important things, like having a baby.

2 thoughts on “The diabetic birth plan

  1. JaneC

    You seem to have everything covered and am so impressed by the letter. I always found having control of my diabetic care taken away in hospital one of the most scary things. You were always treated as the lowest common denominator of diabetic no matter how well you looked after yourself. It seemed sometimes as if the staff were slightly scared of us.

    At this stage of your pregnancy I think it’s natural to feel apprehensive about the whole thing, I certainly was. I had a diabetic consultant who was always determined to try and get her patients to 40 weeks where safe but then transferred to another hospital where 38/39 weeks was the norm. My BS control was good but not as good as yours, I had HBa1c around the 6.5 to 7 mark and the first pregnancy was quite easy and the second quite a bit harder with a largish baby and had sections both times due to different reasons. Despite this and I think I am justified in boasting this one time, I have two healthy, clever and sporty girls, one is at Cambridge uni, the other swims at regional level and has places to study medicine. A bit of high sugar and a diabetic mother will be the only things that have stopped them from world domination ( a good thing! ). Basically enjoy the rest of your pregnancy and don’t worry too much if you can help it. With the odd and annoying exception, the hospital staff were and are pretty damn good.

    1. Alison Post author

      Thanks Jane. Apart from the overwhelming terror if I think too much about the whole thing 😉 I’m comfortable that we have a plan in place for the diabetes stuff which makes me feel so much better. My worst nightmare is having someone else meddle with my diabetes when they don’t know what they’re doing! Sounds like you’ve done a fab job. It must be the high sugar that’s holding Tim and I back from world domination, I can’t think of anything else that could be stopping us 😉


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