A Cumbrian mum is swimming the equivalent of the English Channel to raise vital funds for a cause close to her heart.

Natalie Sayner, 36, of Whitehaven, is taking on the swimming challenge, Swim 22, to help raise awareness of gestational diabetes, which she was diagnosed with while pregnant with her first child, Grace, last year.

Eight months on from having Grace, Natalie, a paramedic, is in good health and using Swim22 to continue living a healthy lifestyle while raising money for Diabetes UK.

Natalie said: “Getting gestational diabetes was a complete shock, as I have no history of diabetes.

"As a paramedic, I’ve got a quite good knowledge of diabetes, but had never had to experience it myself until I was pregnant.

"I had to check my blood sugars four times a day, I had to completely overhaul my diet and take medication.

"When I saw the Swim22 challenge, I just thought ‘this is perfect’ because it’s raising money for a charity which supports people with diabetes. I just wanted to do something different, something that was quite personal to me.”

The Swim22 challenge involves swimming 22 miles, the equivalent of the English Channel, during repeated visits to the pool across a 12-week period running until May 22.

Natalie, a keen swimmer when she was younger, is enjoying her training even though she says it has been ‘tough’ at times.

She added: “A lot of people think ‘it’s just diabetes’ but until you actually experience it, you don’t realise how much of a huge lifestyle change it is, and how much it affects you.

"Gestational diabetes usually goes away after birth but even now I have to have my blood glucose levels tested every year. It stays hanging over you.

“When you have an incentive, it keeps you going. I’m doing it for the charity.

"Even though I only had a short period of having diabetes, it still made me think that any more awareness and research is going to be beneficial.”

To sponsor Natalie go to: https://swim22.diabetes.org.uk/pages/natalie-s-22-mile-swim-challenge

To sign up for Swim22, go to www.diabetes.org.uk/swim22. There is no registration fee and no minimum sponsorship.