Being told you need steroid injections during pregnancy is bound to terrify you ever so slightly, it certainly scared me. After being diagnosed with IUGR in my pregnancy with Lily I had weekly scans and bi weekly CTGs. I remember sitting in the consultants room at 31 weeks pregnant after having a particularly rubbish growth scan that found my fluid levels to be low and my baby so small she was off the charts. It was decided that the risk of my baby being born prematurely was high enough for me to need steroid injections to mature my baby’s lungs and I was booked in to have them as soon as possible.
I was absolutely petrified. More so of the injections themselves at the time, I had read so many horror stories about how painful and absolutely awful they were which sent my anxiety even higher through the roof. To top it off, Ben had broken his hand and was unable to drive and Eloise had managed to pick up a stomach bug which made me even more anxious but hopefully after reading this, you won’t be so anxious.
Steroid injections are given over the course of two days. This is very important because in order for the injections to give your baby the best chance the full dosage needs to be administered 24 hours apart between the weeks 25-33 and are most effective two-seven days after administration. Depending on your circumstances this can be done while you are an inpatient or an outpatient. I was lucky enough to be able to have mine done as an outpatient.
If you are an outpatient then your injections are likely be administered in the antenatal assessment unit which you will more than likely already be familiar with. It will be injected in your thigh/bum area so the needle will look pretty big although not the size of your forearm like I read somewhere. I was bricking it and bracing myself for literal agony but I hardly felt it. It stung a little obviously but comprehend to what I was expecting a stinging nettle is more hardcore. I was asked to stay for 10 minutes which is pretty standard after any injection.
The next day I had the injection in the other leg and stood up this time, bent over the bed. Honestly, this made it hurt even less than the first time so I totally recommend standing up if you can. I didn’t have to wait the 10 minutes this time because I was fine the day before apart from panicking.
I always worry a lot about side effects, my anxiety sky rockets at the thought of them and I always freak out about the worst case scenarios which for me is normally anaphylaxis or another serious allergic reaction but Betamethasone (which is the steroid they use to mature babies lungs) is actually sometimes used to treat severe allergic reactions which put my mind at ease a lot.
What side effects did I have?
BLOOD SUGAR CHANGES – I suffer with hypoglycemia so I was quite worried about my blood sugar levels because corticosteroids can make them harder to control. I did notice an increase in my blood sugar both fasting and after meals for a good few days; I normally sit at 4mmol fasting but I was sitting in the 5s for a bit after. So if high blood sugar is more your problem they you may have a week where your levels are harder to keep down. I also worried a bit about how my body would cope with the drop after the injection ha worn off and I did have a hypo so definitely keep a close eye on your levels for at least a week.
SLEEP DISTURBANCES – Could I sleep? Could I f*ck! I found myself awake at all hours for a good few days and I found it really difficult to drop off.
NIGHT SWEATS – I also experienced night sweats which kept me up too, I would wake up absolutely boiling hot, dripping with sweat. Bearing in mind I had them December time so it was freezing outside.
FACIAL FLUSHING – This one is a pretty common side effect, I had more hot flushes than someone going through the menopause. I looked like a bloody tomato.
INCREASED FOETAL MOVEMENT – This was another one I was told to expect, Lily did move rather a bit more for a few days which worried me a bit. If you notice a change that you’re worrying about, even if they warned you about it, just go and get checked.
FEELING OVERLY HYPED UP – I actually felt bloody amazing after had the injections, I felt awake for the first time in ages and I was near enough buzzing. Kinda like I had drank a load of energy drinks on top of the entire contents of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory without the sugar crash. I felt fantastic in a slightly weird, not sure if I was totally in control of myself kind of way.
These side effects went by the time a week was up and Lily managed to stay put until she was full term and despite being the size of a doll, she was perfect. You can read her birth story and watch our birth vlog here.