Could Diabetes Injections be Replaced by a Simple Skin Patch?

Chelsi Brown, pictured with her artificial pancreas. She is six months pregnant, and the new device means she no longer has to give herself up to 10 injections a day
Chelsi Brown, pictured with her artificial pancreas. She is six months pregnant, and the new device means she no longer has to give herself up to 10 injections a day

Women with diabetes are at risk of complications during pregnancy due to uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

A new wireless patch delivers insulin automatically and keeps mother and baby safe.

Chelsi Brown, 24, an office worker from Cambridge, is one of the first women to have it fitted, as she tells ROGER DOBSON.


When I was about 18, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

I was working part-time in Tesco at the time and one day, while working on the tills, I suddenly lost my vision. I couldn’t read the numbers on the screen — it was really frightening.

I went to the local walk-in clinic after my shift and the GP there was so concerned he referred me straight to hospital for tests.

That same day they carried out blood tests and physical examinations then diagnosed me with type 1 diabetes.

This meant my body mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. As a result, my body can’t control my blood sugar levels.

There is a genetic element to it and I have since found out that a great grandmother of mine had it.

I clearly had it for years because it was now so serious that it was damaging the cells in my eyes, causing temporary vision loss.

Looking back I realise I had symptoms before I was diagnosed — unintended weight loss, severe thirst, exhaustion — but I never took much notice or saw a doctor until that episode of blindness which really scared me.

In hospital, the doctors told me I was lucky as if I’d left it much longer I could have died because the severe lack of insulin meant I had developed diabetic ketoacidosis, meaning my body was starting to break down muscle.

I was told do finger prick tests to measure my blood sugar levels and I would need to inject insulin for the rest of my life. I was worried I’d lose my freedom.

On occasions I could inject insulin up to ten times a day, to cover what I had eaten or correct the previous doses if I didn’t feel right.

It was such a chore but I had to get on with it.

Earlier this year I started attending a pre-pregnancy clinic for women with diabetes at Addenbrooke’s Hospital because my fiance, Lewis, 25, and I wanted to start a family and my diabetes adds risk to pregnancy.

It was during one of these clinics that I found out about a new study called the artificial pancreas project.

I was told it would cut the risk of complications, including stillbirth and high birth weight, and I was asked if I would like to join the trial.

I was a little reluctant at first but then decided to give it a go as it meant no more insulin injections — I joined when I was 12 weeks pregnant.

I was given instructions and the ‘artificial pancreas’ system to fit at home.

It is made up of a patch which I stick to my stomach, an insulin pump in my pocket which feeds insulin into a tube in my stomach, and a glucose meter, a smartphone-like device. I assembled everything myself in about four minutes at home.

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