Planning a pregnancy if you’ve had gestational diabetes before
Any woman can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, but you're at an increased risk if you’ve had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy. If you’re planning to get pregnant, there are some positive things you can do that can improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Try to do the following before you stop contraception:
- eat a healthy diet
- exercise regularly
- maintain a healthy weight
- stop smoking.
Find out more about things to do before you start trying to get pregnant.
If you’ve had gestational diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later life. This means you should be offered a test every year to check that you hadn’t developed diabetes. This is called an HBa1c test. Your GP surgery can arrange for you to have it.
If you do have diabetes and want to get pregnant, you should be referred to a diabetes preconception clinic. They can help make sure your condition is well managed before you get pregnant.
"The second time round I didn’t eat chocolate, and getting out and walking was easier because I had a child. Worrying about it added a lot of anxiety to my pregnancy but I didn’t have gestational diabetes that time round."
Folic acid is a vitamin, which is sometimes called vitamin B9. It is found in certain foods and it can also be taken as tablets.
If you’re planning to have a baby, it’s important that you take folic acid tablets for 2 to 3 months before you conceive. This allows it to build up in your body to protect your future baby against neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
If you’ve had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, you should start taking a high dose (5mg) of folic acid every day before you stop taking contraception. You will need a prescription for these so you’ll need to see your GP.
Find out more about the benefits of taking folic acid before pregnancy.
If you have an unplanned pregnancy
If you are pregnant now and it wasn’t planned, try not to worry. Talk to your GP as soon as you can and tell them about your medical history.
You’ll have one of these tests to see if you have gestational diabetes again:
- a kit with a finger-pricking device so that you can check your own blood sugar levels from early pregnancy
- an oral glucose tolerance test, which you will have as soon as possible after your booking appointment, and another at 24-28 weeks if the first test is normal.
Try to remember that although your risk of developing gestational diabetes is higher, it does not mean you will definitely develop the condition in this pregnancy. You can still reduce your risk by:
- eating a healthy diet
- exercising regularly
- maintaining a healthy weight
- not smoking.
You can talk to your midwife at any point if you have any concerns.
You can also speak to our midwives on our pregnancy line on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email us at [email protected].
Find out more about things to do before you start trying to get pregnant. You can also use our planning for pregnancy tool to receive tailored suggestions on what to do next.
NHS Choices. Gestational Diabetes. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gestational-diabetes/ (Page last reviewed: 06/08/2019 Next review due: 06/08/2022)
Zang C et al (2014) Adherence to healthy lifestyle and risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal. 2014;349:g5450
NICE (2015). Diabetes in pregnancy: management from preconception to the postnatal period. National Institute for health and care excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng3
Sue Macdonald, Gail Johnson, Mayes’ Midwifery. (Edinburgh: Baillir̈e Tindall Elsevier, 2017), p 312.
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Why your weight matters during pregnancy and after birth (Page last reviewed: Nov 2011) www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-why-your-weight-matters-during-pregnancy-and-after-birth.pdf