'Being pregnant and having diabetes means my experience is different to other women.'

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on the 4th of July in 2000 when I was 15-years-old.

I was drinking copious amounts of water and any other fluid I could get my hands on and then going to the bathroom almost immediately. I even drank litres of orange juice when I came home from school – I was also training for swimming and gymnastics at the time and keeping a lot of symptoms hidden from the amount of exercise I was doing, but I didn’t realise.

Then one day I became incredibly ill and went to my GP who recognised the symptoms quickly and sent me straight to the Emergency Department.

From my mid 20s I was constantly reminded by medical professionals that I would possibly struggle to fall pregnant and should be trying for a baby sooner than later. In fact, new research from Amcal’s 2018 Diabetes Care Review has found that more than one in 10 Australians hold the belief that people with diabetes shouldn’t fall pregnant at all* – that’s just not the case.

Pregnant with Type 1 Diabetes
Lisa Bath was 15 when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Image: Supplied.

Being in a relationship for over 10 years and married for four, I decided to go off the pill but we weren’t actively trying to fall pregnant. I was told the chances were low so my expectations weren’t high. I had taken a couple of pregnancy tests and they came back negative. Again, I wasn’t too concerned as I assumed it wasn’t going to be easy. Then, after three or four months, I took another pregnancy test and it came back positive.

The first thought that went through my mind was disbelief, I couldn’t believe that I was actually pregnant. When we counted back to figure out when we’d conceived, I thought to the occasions where I was more active than ever. I had achieved four personal bests in the pool (as I’m a keen swimmer) and also went on a snow trip where I was skiing each day. Little did we know we were expecting.

My mum didn’t believe me at first when I told her. I got a thumbs up from Dad and Pop was over the moon because it will be his first and only great grandchild. My friends and colleagues were also excited. Naturally, it’s been a complete life changer for me.

Devin Arbenz has Type 1 Diabetes. This is a day in her life:

Video by Devin Arbenz

Over the years I’ve absolutely experienced feelings of anxiety about falling pregnant. I would ask myself questions all the time: Will it be difficult for me? Will it be achievable? What if it doesn’t happen at all and would I be OK with that? How will I still be able to have a family? I did nothing to deserve this.

Given the increasing prevalence of Type 1 diabetes since my diagnosis 18 years ago, I’m still surprised by the lack of awareness around diabetes. People say uneducated things to me all the time. At celebratory occasions, I am often questioned as to whether I should be eating certain foods like cake.

I know I’m not alone though, as more than a quarter (28 per cent) of people with diabetes say they regularly encounter judgement from family and friends, and a similar number (27 per cent) also struggle to be themselves and relax when socialising. There are definitely some myths and stigma still surrounding diabetes and improved understanding and acceptance of the condition within the community is essential.

Pregnant with Type 1 Diabetes
Even before her Type 1 diabetes diagnosis, Lisa kept herself active. Image: supplied.

Of course, being pregnant and having diabetes means that my experience is likely different from other pregnant women. My advice for others in a similar situation is to expect the unexpected. Be prepared that things can change rapidly as they have for me, trust your instincts and surround yourself with experts you are comfortable with because some things don’t go as planned.

In pre-screening tests I came out as a low risk for preeclampsia, but am currently in hospital with this exact condition at 33 weeks, yet I was still training with my swimming squad only days ago. This however is a common complication to occur during pregnancy, it doesn’t just happen to women with diabetes.

It’s important to keep exercising and living a healthy lifestyle. I love to swim and I normally try and get in the pool two to five times a week. Since being pregnant I have continued to swim as much as possible and although I have had to slow my pace and take a few more rests in between sets, it’s the most satisfying and relieving activity I partake in.

If you do have any health questions during your pregnancy, your GP or pharmacist can be a huge help too.

I have been incredibly grateful to have supportive family and friends around and an amazing obstetrician. Remember, you’re not alone, keep talking, be honest.