Balancing Pregnancy, Diabetes and Cycling
17 July 2017
Just over two weeks away from giving birth to first her child, a baby girl, Team Novo Nordisk Elite rider Stacy Allen shares a bit about how she, with the support of her husband and her health care team, has continued to ride while managing her pregnancy and diabetes.
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes nearly 10 years ago, I was determined not to let it keep me from the adventures I love so much. I haven’t looked back since! And I’ve used my diabetes as motivation to continue pushing myself on the bike, and to seek out harder races and tougher competition, so I can help show those around me what can be possible with diabetes.
Adventure, facing new challenges, dealing with the element of risk, venturing into the unknown, and experiencing the reward that comes from beating the odds to make it through what sometimes seems impossible. It’s what motivates me to pursue many of things I enjoy in life: cycling, my career, the latest challenge and starting a family with my husband Brad.
With this latest adventure, though, there has been an entirely new set of obstacles to overcome in balancing pregnancy with diabetes, cycling, and life in general.
Last year, when we were thinking about starting a family, my doctor told Brad and I that the diabetes management required to maintain a healthy pregnancy would “take over our lives”. She also said that diabetes management in pregnancy always starts ahead of time, so you can get everything dialed in before the normal pregnancy hormones throw a curve ball at all your well-laid diabetes plans.
She wasn’t kidding at all, it has taken over every aspect of our life for 9 months and any cycling training plan pales in comparison. But the reward at the end should be so much sweeter than any cycling victory!
Throughout my pregnancy, my goal has been to maintain blood sugar numbers that are close to the same as a person without diabetes. For me, this has meant testing my blood sugar over three times the normal amount, an endless number of doctor appointments, a stricter watch on every carb I eat, constant adjustments to my diabetes management throughout the day, careful planning of my exercise timing and duration and waking up several times a night to check that everything was still in balance after the day was done.
Adjusting my daily routine with my work and ride schedule to accommodate all of this took some time for Brad and I to get used to. And it seems that there are still many unknowns, as every new week of pregnancy continues to bring changes to how my blood sugar reacts to food, exercise and medication. So it’s been a matter of having a plan but being prepared to adjust it, much like I have to do in most bike races.
One of the things that I have learned about cycling with diabetes is that once you have it figured out, something changes. And there have been no exceptions with my pregnancy!
Given the green light from my doctors, there was no question that I was going to do my best to continue cycling throughout my pregnancy. The recommendation was to dial it back to a reasonable level, so I took that advice and decided that this season I would be cycling for fun and fitness, not for racing.
Early on in my pregnancy, I found that my blood sugar was much easier to manage if I did the same type of riding every day. I would usually do shorter, more intense rides during the week, when I worked, and longer training rides on the weekends.
One of the things I love most about cycling is the freedom you get with long rides in the mountains and exploring new areas, and although I’ve had to give up this type of riding and training that I enjoy for the last 9 months, I’ve been more than thankful that I am still able to ride my bike at all.
With only a couple of weeks to go until our baby girl arrives, we’re still looking forward to all of the places this new adventure will take us. It’s been hard to maintain the pregnancy and diabetes routine, but my doctors have been there every step of the way to help me troubleshoot changes in my blood sugar and make the changes that are so often needed.
Brad has also been there during all the times when the trail has gotten a little rough and the race has seemed like more than I can handle to remind me that I need to keep pushing all the way to the finish line. I plan to get back to training shortly after delivery and put in a good effort for cyclocross racing season, and who knows, maybe top the podium.
Like all of the other adventures in life and challenges I’ve faced with diabetes, the work is hard at times but the reward is well worth the effort. Despite having to take a break from racing this year, I can now look forward to having the newest and smallest member of the team cheer me on at races and to all of the great places we’ll soon get to experience together on bikes as a family.
On July 28, 2017, Stacy and Brad welcomed their daughter, Brooke! “So blessed to have a perfectly, health baby,” Stacy said.