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Woman who made medical history looks back at pioneering study five years on

PUBLISHED: 06:30 09 May 2020

Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins back home with her new baby boy Euan Wilkins after pioneering use of an artificial pancreas to control her diabetes.

Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins back home with her new baby boy Euan Wilkins after pioneering use of an artificial pancreas to control her diabetes. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2015

In 2015, Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins made medical history when she became the first woman in the world to give birth naturally after using an artificial pancreas to control her insulin levels during pregnancy.

In 2015, Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins made medical history when she became the first woman in the world to give birth naturally after using an artificial pancreas during her pregnancy, here she is pictured in 2020 with her husband and five year-old son Euan. Picture: Catriona Finlayson-WilkinsIn 2015, Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins made medical history when she became the first woman in the world to give birth naturally after using an artificial pancreas during her pregnancy, here she is pictured in 2020 with her husband and five year-old son Euan. Picture: Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins

Euan Finlayson-Wilkins was born at the Norfolk and Norfolk University Hospital on Tuesday, April 28, weighing 8lbs and 15oz.

Throughout her pregnancy Mrs Finlayson-Wilkins, who has Type 1 Diabetes, had used an artificial pancreas device system, also known as an APD system, AP or APDS.

A small portable device which is worn on the outside of the body, it helps to control the wearer’s blood sugar levels using digital communication technology to automate insulin levels.

The device consists of a continuous glucose monitor, digital controller and insulin pump.

Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins back home with her new baby boy Euan Wilkins after pioneering use of an artificial pancreas to control her diabetes.

Picture: MARK BULLIMORECatriona Finlayson-Wilkins back home with her new baby boy Euan Wilkins after pioneering use of an artificial pancreas to control her diabetes. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

The artificial pancreas had been used by three other women during pregnancy but all had given birth via caesarean, and in 2015 Mrs Finlayson-Wilkins became the first mum outside the main research site at Cambridge University Hospitals to use the technology and to give birth naturally.

Five years on from making medical history, Mrs Finlayson-Wilkins, 46, a face and body paint artist, has relocated from Knapton, near Cromer, to Bristol, where she lives with her husband and two sons.

READ MORE: Norfolk mum becomes first woman in the world to give birth naturally using artificial pancreas

She said she often got recognised by medical professionals who had read about the Closed Loop Study, and said: “I’m diabetic so I have to go for check ups and one time a nurse said she knew me because she read about my birth, so I do [get recognised] a bit now and then.

Euan Finlayson-Wilkins celebrating his fifth birthday, in 2015 his mother, Catriona, made medical history when she became the first in the world to give birth naturally after using an artificial pancreas during pregnancy. Picture: Catriona Finlayson-WilkinsEuan Finlayson-Wilkins celebrating his fifth birthday, in 2015 his mother, Catriona, made medical history when she became the first in the world to give birth naturally after using an artificial pancreas during pregnancy. Picture: Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins

“We sometimes see kids or older people with the Closed Loop Systems and I think, I helped with that, and a lot of people ask me for advice, a lot of friends or parents ask about diabetic pregnancies.”

Mrs Finlayson-Wilkins said she thought Euan, who celebrated his fifth birthday in lockdown by getting some pet chicks, was fairly oblivious to his part in medical history.

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“I don’t think Euan really pays much attention. He knows mummy needs her injections” she said.

Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins with her sons. Picture: Catriona Finlayson-WilkinsCatriona Finlayson-Wilkins with her sons. Picture: Catriona Finlayson-Wilkins

READ MORE: Joy as Norfolk’s youngest premature baby goes home

Mrs Finlayson-Wilkins, who had taken part in previous medical studies prior the 2015 Closed Loop in Pregnancy study, recalled when she signed up to take part, she didn’t have concerns although friends did.

She said: “[The concerns] just didn’t make sense to me, so many people were asking me, but there was no harm to the baby, it just seemed common sense.

“I’m all for [trials], there are good and bad reasons to be testing on animals but if it’s something for humans it needs to be tested on humans at some point.”

Mrs Finlayson-Wilkins said following the completion of the 2015 study, she had not had much contact with researchers.

“They took lots of notes, they would call me up and ask me lots of questions, but they haven’t contacted me since,” she said.

“I had to fill in a lot of forms.”

She said she would advise anyone in a position to help medical research to do so.

“Take part in these things and don’t be scared to because by the time anything gets to [the human point] it’s been tested a lot.

“[The fears] didn’t make sense to me, at the time of the trial, they said to me they were really short of people to do it which didn’t make sense to me.

“If we didn’t get to try out stuff like this we would still be at the stage of shaking and rattling sticks.”


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