Monitoring your own glucose levels

If you have gestational diabetes, measuring your own blood glucose levels will become something you do regularly. It’s very important - it helps to guide your treatment and lifestyle, to reduce the risks for you and your baby.

You measure your glucose levels through a finger-prick test. You should have been shown how to do this when you were told that you had gestational diabetes. You will also have discussed the ideal blood glucose levels for you during your pregnancy.

The ideal target glucose levels are below but your team may have talked to you about your individual target level:

  • fasting: 5.3 mmol/litre
  • 1 hour after meals: 7.8 mmol/litre
  • 2 hours after meals: 6.4 mmol/litre.

How to monitor your blood glucose levels

Watch this film from Diabetes UK or read the instructions below.

To monitor your glucose, you will be given a blood glucose monitor. This is designed for you to measure your own blood glucose levels at home, or wherever you happen to be, by checking a drop of your blood. You produce the blood by using a finger pricker.

Tip

There is less sensation in the sides of your fingers than the tips or the underneath. Try to prick the side of your finger, near the tip.

To monitor your glucose, you will be given a blood glucose monitor. This is designed for you to measure your own blood glucose levels at home, or wherever you happen to be, by checking a drop of your blood. You produce the blood by using a finger pricker.

There are many different brands of meter on the market, but they all work in similar ways:

Step 1  Wash your hands.

Step 2  Set up a finger pricker with a clean needle.

Step 3  Insert one end of a test strip (usually a long, thin paper-type strip) into the meter.

Step 4  Use the finger pricker to prick the side of your finger.

Step 5  When a spot of blood appears where you pricked you finger, place it onto the end of the testing strip that is sticking out of the meter to transfer the blood.

Step 6  After a few seconds, the meter will display your blood glucose level.

Step 7  Clean the blood off your finger.

Step 8  Record the results in your blood glucose diary or diabetes journal, or you may have a phone app that you use.

Step 9  Throw away the test strip.

Step 10 Dispose of the needle from the finger pricker safely, by putting it in your sharps bin.

Your blood glucose level is measured in millimoles per litre (mmol/L), but you don’t need to worry about that – just about the numbers.

"The first week when I was recording my blood sugars, the dietician said ‘Once we’ve seen your results, we can go through what you’re doing right and wrong’. It turned out I was eating too much fruit and yoghurt with my lunch."Gemma, mum of one

When should I measure my blood glucose?

Throughout the rest of your pregnancy, you will need to measure your blood glucose levels at various points through the day, to check that they are within the limits you have been given at each of those times:

When you get up  You need to measure your blood glucose levels each morning when you get up, before you have anything to eat or drink. This blood glucose level is called your ‘fasting blood glucose level’ because you will have an empty stomach. You must not have eaten or drunk anything apart from water overnight, for at least eight hours.

Your team should have discussed this with you and agreed the ideal morning blood glucose level for you to aim for. 

Before or after every meal  You will probably be asked to measure your blood glucose level around the time of a meal. Some services measure before eating (‘pre-prandial monitoring’) while others measure one or two hours after a meal (‘postprandial monitoring’).

Again, you will have discussed and agreed an ideal blood glucose level after meals with your diabetes team. These levels will be higher than your fasting blood glucose levels, as you will just have eaten.

If you are taking insulin to help to control your blood glucose levels, you may need to do a separate test before you go to bed, or even during the night, although this is unusual.

"When we did go out for a special meal or two, and I'd have a little bit of cheesecake or something, it really affected my sugar levels. But that would've been just twice in the whole pregnancy."Gemma, mum of one

How do I interpret the results?

Your blood glucose levels tell you if your gestational diabetes is under control.

The blood glucose levels before breakfast and after meals should be within the ideal levels that you have discussed and agreed with your diabetes team. If they are not, you should have been given instructions about what to do next. If you are not sure about this, get in touch with your main point of contact, and ask for their advice.

You will have contact with your diabetes team every one-to-two weeks through your pregnancy, either by phone or in person. They are there to give you advice and support, including keeping an eye on your blood glucose levels and advising you what to do if they are not at the ideal levels. You may also have a number to call if you have questions in between those times. You can also get support from the Diabetes UK Careline 0345 123 2399 or the Tommy’s midwives on 0800 0147 800.

Sources

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Last reviewed on March 1st, 2015. Next review date March 1st, 2018.

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