Tag Archives: Cheryl Alkon

Interview with Cheryl Alkon, author of a great new book for diabetic women

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Cheryl Alkon has worked a long time in journalism.  She has also had type 1 diabetes for over 3 decades.  This combination seems to have produced an inquisitive diabetes researcher.  Willing to share one of the biggest issues in her life, Cheryl has blogged about infertility, pregnancy, and other diabetes related themes on her blog, Managing the Sweetness Within.  This has led her to write the new book, Balancing Pregnancy with Pre-existing Diabetes: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby.  I just highly recommended this book in a review you can read here.

Check out this interview with Cheryl below:

Cheryl Alkon
Cheryl Alkon

 

Cheryl, in a few words, how would you best describe yourself?

 

A writer who asks a million questions and writes pretty much the same way I talk.

Big, huge, super congratulations on publishing your new book! Why did you decide to do it?

Thanks! I wrote the book because when I first thought about having a child years ago, the main message I remember is what terrible complications could happen, and what a downer the whole experience sounded like—if you were able to have a healthy child anyway.

I had a few friends, longtime type 1 women like myself, who I saw had healthy kids, and I knew it was possible. But when I went looking for an insider’s guide of how to do it, I couldn’t find one. I’d always had thoughts about writing a book, and when I realized there was no book like the one I was seeking, I decided I would need to write it myself.

What is the tone of your book?

Definitely down to earth, reassuring, and conversational. In other resources that explain diabetes and pregnancy, the info is straight from the doctor’s office: dry and clinical. I wanted my book to be completely different from that—full of advice and insight and even humor from many other type 1 and type 2 women who have dealt with pregnancy, as well as preconception, delivering, new parenthood, pregnancy loss and infertility—all with diabetes.

Do you talk a lot about your own experience in the book?

Yes—it’s a bit like a memoir at times. I am very up front about what I did to get my blood sugars in relatively tight control, what I ate, how I dealt with insulin reactions and retinopathy, delivering, and my own history with loss and infertility. While I did a ton of research and talked to many people for the book, my own experience helped me figure out what to include in the book.

How have people responded to your book thus far?

I’m thrilled to say it’s all been pretty positive. People have thanked me in reviews and emails for providing a resource that the diabetes community has lacked for so long, and people around the world have bought the book from me and from other booksellers. My own doctors—who co-wrote the forward and reviewed every word before publication—have been really supportive about it, too.

What was the hardest thing for you during pregnancy?

All of it, really. Keeping your blood sugars within the recommended ranges is really tough. I have never had more lows, or freaked out about highs more, when being pregnant. Also, I really like sushi, deli meat, all sorts of smoked meats and fish, and drinking a lot of Diet Coke; none of these foods or habits are recommended during pregnancy, and I missed them.

Raging hormones and having diabetes have the potential to create a lot of emotional havoc. Was the emotional factor a big issue for you during pregnancy? If so, what helped you stay calm?

I am actually 16 weeks pregnant again as I write this. I honestly focus so much on where my blood sugars are at any one time that I’ve barely thought about actually being pregnant except when I’m at the doctor’s office for one of my many checkups. I am lucky in that I have never felt much different while being pregnant than when I am not (except for the obvious weight gain). I’m more annoyed about how my hormones affect my blood sugars for the worse and what I can do to get them down as quickly as possible without going too low a few hours later.

I really wish your book had come out a year earlier to help me through my pregnancy! For a diabetic woman out there considering pregnancy for the first time, what advice would you have for her?

Buy and read my book!

Beyond that, I’d say if you are just thinking about pregnancy, talk to your endocrinologist and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist or a high risk obstetrician about what you need to do before you get pregnant, where you blood sugars should be, what health tests (such as a dilated eye exam) you need before getting pregnant, as well as asking how much experience your endo and your obstetrician have with pregnancy and pre-existing diabetes. You want to find doctors who are up to date, who have managed many other pregnant women with diabetes (and in particular, YOUR type of diabetes, not just a bunch of women with gestational diabetes), and how they will work with you before and during your pregnancy so that you will have the healthiest pregnancy and baby possible.

Something particularly shocking for me after giving birth to twins last June was that the hardship wasn’t over once the pregnancy was done. For example, I had a hard time breastfeeding and figuring out how to take naps and still keep on top of my blood sugars.

Is there anything you would advise a new mom about taking care of diabetes, post-partum?

Remember that you still need to take care of yourself as well as your newborn (or newborns!). Test your blood sugar before your meals—and remember to eat those meals.

If you’re breastfeeding, have some juice or some sort of snack or source of glucose nearby because your sugars can drop as you’re nursing or pumping breast milk.

Walking around the block with your newborn, even for just ten or 15 minutes, can help you try to bring down high blood sugars if you’ve been stuck in the house all day or night trying to calm or feed or diaper a baby.

If you have an insulin pump or a continuous glucose monitor, definitely use them. Test your blood sugar frequently.

And finally, ask for help: friends or relatives can come by and bring you healthy groceries, or a stash of juice boxes to help battle lows, or can even just watch the baby while you nap and take a shower. People are often happy to help you if you can let them know what will help you best.

In the end, you and your son are healthy. You should be proud. How do you feel when you think back on the journey of pregnancy and pre-existing diabetes?

Frankly, it’s been (and continues to be) a very long and potentially stressful haul. To me, pregnancy with pre-existing diabetes is something you have to endure to be able to hopefully have a happy and healthy baby. It was not, nor is it now, a magical time where I can just eat whatever and just plan what my kid’s nursery is going to look like. I think and thought constantly about my blood sugars, what I ate, and how it was affecting my kid-to-be. I hope my book will help others realize that pregnancy with pre-existing diabetes is tough, but it can be done.

Bottom line: my son is fabulous, and I am doing everything I possibly can and hope that my next child will be as well.

Thanks for being so candid Cheryl, I know your hard work will pay off :)

Must read book for diabetic women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy

Aurora gives the book two thumbs up

Two good reasons to buy this book              Henri does, too!

                           
 
                                                     

 

The following is a review of Cheryl Alkon’s new book, Balancing Pregnancy with Pre-existing Diabetes: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby.

Before continuing please know I choose to only give unbiased reviews.

I was very blessed with my pregnancy last year.  All three of us ended up just fine (I had twins).  So even though this book was published just after my pregnancy I was still extremely interested in checking it out.  “How helpful would it have been?”, I thought to myself. 

If you’re reading this you are most likely a diabetic and know what it is like to worry about your health. 

Well, as you might imagine a pregnancy adds loads of worry!  I told a friend recently that I wasn’t kidding when I said I got tons of grey hairs during my pregnancy.  I was a total mess!

I would seek out information about other diabetic women having babies and wouldn’t find anything except the generic “It can be done but, pregnancy in diabetics carries many risks…blah blah blah”.  I wanted to ask women who had been there some questions but, I couldn’t find anyone to ask.  I can’t tell you how many women with gestational diabetes told me, “Oh you’ll be fine, its no biggie!”  Yet, pre-existing diabetes is a biggie and pregnancy on top of that is a biggie, too. 

I felt very alone and my 8 months of pregnancy were quite miserable-albeit spotted with a few miraculous and joyful moments like when my babies swam in my belly.

Cheryl’s book is generously filled with different women’s accounts on their pregnancies with pre-existing diabetes and after reading it, I wanted to cry.  I realized I wasn’t alone last year.  Here were all of these women feeling the same things I was and experiencing the same things and struggling with the same things. 

Had I known then about this book (and had it been published then), I would have paid many times the cost of the book.  The relief I would have experienced from all of the information in this book would have been priceless. 

So I wholeheartedly and firmly recommend this book to any diabetic woman (even with type 2 diabetes) who is considering pregnancy, trying to get pregnant, or even 6 months pregnant.  Why?  Because of mainly 2 reasons:

1.  This book is a result of a lot of well done research.  I do tons of research myself and still managed to learn a lot from this book.  I would have taken this book along to every doctor visit as a companion and reminder of things I might want to discuss with the doctor. This would have been ideal because believe me if you haven’t experienced “pregnancy brain” yet, you will and you’ll know how great it is to have a reference book to guide your concerns, questions, and issues.  Other books are helpful but, not catered to the uniqueness of a pregnancy of someone with pre-existing diabetes, be it type 1 or 2.

2.  For me this second reason is as valuable as the first.  This book will give you inspiration by knowing many other women have had successful pregnancies despite being diabetic.  You will definitely be relieved by the accounts and details bared.  Many people in today’s medical field do not place a lot of attention on a patient’s emotional and psychological state.  I think it makes an enormous difference for mom to feel assured and baby to sense that peace and calmness.  Dad will benefit from this too, I’m pretty sure ;)

I’m grateful this book is out there for women to purchase and would make a great gift for a female family member or friend.  (It would be awesome if medical facilities could distribute the book to diabetic women, as well.)

Check out Cheryl’s blog, Managing the Sweetness Within where she has chronicled her journey with infertility and a successful pregnancy.  She also just delivered super big news that you may be interested in following-I know I am.

Stay tuned for a great interview with Cheryl coming up in less than 24 hours!

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