Maybe this movie is the reason why so many people assume that diabetics can't handle pregnancy. I think I saw it a long time ago, possibly before I had diabetes. Or maybe it was after my diabetes diagnosis, but it seemed so out-of-touch with my diabetic existence that I never really considered it could be me.
This article, by a pediatric endocrinologist, lays out reasons why the events of Steel Magnolias are unlikely to be realized in the present day. She notes positive developments in diabetes management, as well as a brief analysis of real diabetic hypoglycemia and kidney failure. I felt vindicated after reading it.
The bad news is that the story has some basis in truth. The playwright who wrote it had a sister who died following complications of her diabetes. The play was written some time before 1989, when the movie came out, when diabetes was much more difficult to manage and complications were not known or understood. Even still, it is important to note that in such a woman as Shelby (and perhaps the playwright's sister), kidney damage would have already been present and extensive before her pregnancy. Her pregnancy would have probably had little to do with the kidney failure that ultimately killed her.
The good news is that the story is very unlikely to happen today, except in cases of gross negligence or poverty. We have better ways to treat diabetes, including insulin pumps, and we can monitor for complications (such as kidney damage) before they are likely to kill us. Gratitude for such technology is truly in order for women, such as myself, who desire children. These improvements make pregnancy easier and complications rare.