Gestational diabetes 

Cathy Moulton, a Diabetes UK care adviser, explains how gestational diabetes affects pregnant women. Kimberley, who was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, talks about the symptoms she experienced and how she dealt with the condition.

Find out about complications of gestational diabetes

Transcript of Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes

that appears during pregnancy.

It's not there before you get pregnant.

We think it's possibly because the body can't make enough insulin

to cope with the extra demands of pregnancy.

We usually see gestational diabetes developing

in the second or third trimester of your pregnancy.

And that's after your baby's vital organs have all developed,

so it's not going to cause damage to your baby's development in that way.

My pregnancy was normal. Everything was fine. I was really enjoying it.

Obviously the first three months were a bit sicky.

And everything seemed to be going really, really well.

And then I had a number of midwife checks

and my glucose and urine were slightly high.

So when you go to see your midwife at your booking interview,

she will actually go through some of the risk factors.

And if you have any one of them, you'll be offered a special blood test

to see if your blood glucose level is too high.

I suddenly started to notice that I'd go to a yoga group

and everyone was either further down the line than I was

or at the same stage of pregnancy as I was.

But I was larger than everyone else. And I started to really, really grow.

And I spoke to my midwife about it,

who measured me and said I was bigger than I should be

and again had glucose and urine.

So she sent me to see an obstetrician, who then sent me for a growth scan.

And they spotted the baby's abdominal circumference

was larger than it should be,

which is another indicator for gestational diabetes.

The risk factors for developing gestational diabetes

are a Body Mass Index of over 30;

a previous very large infant,

weighing over 4.5 kilograms, about 9.5 pounds.

Another risk factor is having had a pregnancy

when you had gestational diabetes;

having a close family member with diabetes,

or being from the ethnic minority groups of the South Asian population;

the black Afro-Caribbean population, or the Middle Eastern population.

For your baby, the biggest problem

is that if your blood glucose levels are high,

that will pass across the placenta and go to your baby.

That extra glucose that your body's producing for your baby

could cause it to grow big. We use the term macrosomia.

And when you come to have the baby,

it could either cause problems as you're giving birth

by actually damaging its shoulder as the baby passes through the birth canal,

or you may have to have a caesarean section delivery.

What we want is for you to have the very best, most natural delivery

with the best outcomes.

If you're diagnosed with gestational diabetes,

the first advice you'll be given is to try and improve your eating pattern.

Extra physical activity is really, really important.

I went to see a dietician, who looked at my diet.

It was quite healthy,

but I suddenly realised that although I don't think I eat lots of sugar,

at breakfast I was eating oats or cereal with fruit, maybe with fruit juice,

and together that is a big hit of sugar.

So we looked at reducing my portions and spacing things out.

I went on the internet and printed off a list of the GI values in food

and had it on the fridge.

And it's surprising. Plain chocolate has far lower glucose than a watermelon.

So it's really surprising.

And the way you cook certain foods can affect the glucose levels in it.

So the first few days were kind of a minefield

of eating something, realising I can't eat that again.

If this doesn't have any effect, and in a short time, over one to two weeks,

your doctor will suggest you might go on to tablets,

which will help the insulin that you're producing be effective

and bring your blood glucose levels down.

And some women do need to have insulin injections,

because it's really important for both your health and that of your baby

that your blood glucose levels are as near to normal as possible.

I didn't have treatment as such.

I was told to monitor my blood for the first couple of days, watch my diet.

I spoke to the dietician.

And I called in the results and spoke to the nurse

and she was really happy with my blood levels.

So it was a case of,

if I could manage my blood sugar levels, I didn't have to have insulin.

Most women who have gestational diabetes find it goes away once the baby's born.

Before you leave hospital

to go back into the care of your doctor in the community,

your blood sugar will be checked to make sure of that.

And then it's really important to go to your six-week postnatal appointment

because you'll be checked again.

There are some women who still have diabetes at that six-week appointment,

and this shows that they were probably developing diabetes anyway,

but the pregnancy just brought it out.

The biggest worry for somebody who's had gestational diabetes

is that it puts you at much higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes

as you grow older.

The support I had was brilliant. The nurses were great.

I had regular checkups. I was always at the hospital.

There were other women around me.

It kind of made me realise that this happens a lot

and it's over and done with so quickly.

Your health care team will be able to spot problems occurring

before they get too bad.

And so keep in close touch with them, turn up for your appointments

and enjoy your pregnancy.


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