Having a human life growing inside, is considered to be one of the most beautiful experiences for a mother. Every moment is to be cherished. For Amna Khan, a 32-year-old first-time mother, however, not all moments were joyous. Her excitement had turned into nervousness during the eighth month of her pregnancy when she was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, a condition in which the expecting mother’s blood sugar levels become high.
“‘It was not the smoothest ride starting the eighth month. My gynaecologist, Dr. Aziza Kapadia, noticed high amniotic fluid and immediately suspected that I had developed this condition”, she recalls. “Although, my pregnancy was the most beautiful phase of my life, finding out about the diagnosis was extremely scary. I did not know what to expect for my and my baby’s health.”
Gestational Diabetes may sound scary at first. However, it is not an uncommon occurrence during pregnancy. Approximately 17% of the expecting mothers in Pakistan develop this condition which is diagnosed for the first-time during pregnancy and fades after the delivery. It can be managed with appropriate care, including a healthy diet and regular exercising, but can affect the baby’s health and increase the risk of the mother developing type 2 diabetes later.
At the time of her labour, Amna was prepared for a normal delivery but had to get a C-section instead. ”Dr. Aziza and I waited for several hours for the fetal movement to increase. I was feeling so exhausted because the movement did not change much for normal delivery. Eventually, I had to go in for a C-section.”
On 6 October 2020, she gave birth to a healthy baby, Muhammad Salaar Shoaib. With the pregnancy and labour behind her, she was finally relaxing and looking forward to being with her baby, when she realised she was not lactating enough to feed her newborn.
“I was not lactating enough to feed my baby. I was so scared that he may become weak. I was gripped by fear when my few-hour old baby was rushed for glucose intravenous infusion because his blood sugar level had taken a drop. The doctors were worried that he may develop Hypoglycaemia due to lack of breastfeeding.”
While it was emotionally and physically a stressful time for Amna, it was an equally emotional time for her husband to be the pillar of support and strength for her. Due to the pain of C-section, she could not get out of bed and walk frequently to see or hold her baby and so, the anxiety was agonising.
“It was an extremely stressful time. My mobility was limited, but whenever I could walk out of bed to see my baby, it was so painful to see him with needles”, recalls emotional Amna. “I cannot stress the importance of an encouraging life partner, as I could not have pulled through without my husband. He was my biggest support. There were times when he would be sitting by me, helping me place the breast pump or waiting till it was filled.”
Insufficiency of breast milk is common for women who develop Gestational Diabetes. In such circumstances, the role of Lactation Clinic nurses is pivotal to counsel both, mothers and their spouses for enhancing this meaningful experience shared between a mother and her child.
Zohra Kurji, the first certified lactation consultant in Pakistan, and the head of the Lactation Clinic at AKUH met Amna and her husband to comfort them and educated them about the importance of:
• Balanced diet
• Breast massages
• Team efforts of both the mother and the spouse.
”Zohra’s help was life-changing and I only feel gratitude for her and the entire team of doctors and nurses, who provided such compassionate care to my family. I had almost given up on breastfeeding my child. But now, a month after the birth, my baby is exclusively on breast milk.”
While Amna is exploring each exciting day of motherhood, she has a message for all the new mothers and their spouses: “Mothers, do not shy away from seeking help, if you are having problems breastfeeding your child. This is the best bond you do not want to miss with your child. To all the spouses of new mothers, please hold their hands. Your support will make the biggest difference during their early motherhood journey.”