Women controlling diabetes
The theme for this year’s World Diabetes Day is Women and Diabetes – Our right to a Healthy Future.
PETALING When sales executive Lee Swie Yie unexpectedly got pregnant in late 2015, she was worried as she has diabetes.
Lee, 26, who was diagnosed with diabetes type 1 when she was 15, said she was initially anxious because a diabetic pregnant woman has a higher risk of miscarriage as well as foetal deformities if her blood sugar level is not well-controlled.
“I also thought I couldn’t have a caesarean section because wound healing may be problematic.
“I also didn’t wish to see my own child developing diabetes due to my history,” said Lee, who lives in Penang.
However, the doctor told her that as long as her blood sugar was well-controlled, the wound could recover, except that it would take a longer time, she said.
Lee, who had opted for a caesarean section due to her small frame, said that her husband and she then made up their minds to do their best to keep the baby healthy rather than worrying about the worst possibilities.
“The doctors helped me control my blood glucose and did regular scans to check on my baby while the dietitian taught me about healthy diets to keep my blood glucose levels normal,” she said.
She was told to change her insulin and to inject it four times a day instead of her normal twice a day as she had done before her pregnancy.
She said she was introduced to an insulin pump, and although costly, it helped her control her blood glucose better. (Insulin pumps deliver rapid- or short-acting insulin 24 hours a day through a catheter placed under the skin.)
Lee recalled that it was challenging keeping her blood glucose levels normal due to continuous hormonal changes throughout her pregnancy.
“The most challenging part was that each trimester, I needed a different amount of insulin and I had to keep checking my blood glucose to avoid hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia, which is not good for the baby.
“My blood glucose was swinging up and down. It was hard to control because hormonal changes resulted in a higher need of insulin, especially during the third trimester, and with more insulin injected, the more frequently I felt hungry and the more I tended to eat,” she said.
She said that she often ate food with low glycemic index, less salt, less oil, low carbohydrate and less sugar.
“I ate small amounts of food for each meal, but increased the number of meals I had.
“I ate more vegetables and fruits to prevent constipation, and I found kiwi fruit especially good,” she said.
A dietitian also recommended her to drink a certain milk brand that did not contain much sugar.
Lee said she was grateful that her baby was born healthy the following July.
She admitted that she had never been careful about her diet or in control of her diabetes until she got pregnant.
“The nine months were the hardest days I’ve gone through but it was worth it when I saw my baby,” she said, adding that she received a lot of support from her family, especially her husband.
Her motto: Stay cheerful, have a balanced diet, do some exercise and take control of your blood glucose.
Retiree Nancy Ooi, 67, who has had diabetes for more than
10 years, said she takes her medication regularly and limits her sugar and carbohydrate intake.
“I noticed that many people do not like to take medicine. But doctors told us if we do not take medicine, we are exposing ourselves to complications and making things worse,” she said.
The doctor sent her to see a dietitian for advice about her food habits.
Ooi said that she normally has her breakfast at home as she could better control her blood sugar level.
She said she would limit eating sweet and sour meat and not take any syrup or fruit juices but eat fruits instead – one slice a day if it is a sweet fruit.
Meanwhile, she said she also does brisk walking every morning in the neighbourhood park and some gardening in the community garden.
“If I take more sugar on some days, I will work out more,” she said.
Green workout: Ooi tending to a community garden in her area in USJ, Subang Jaya, Selangor.