Injecting insulin

If you’ve been prescribed insulin, you’ll need to give yourself this as an injection. You’ll be given an insulin pen.

Insulin injections are different to other injections you may have had before. Most women do not find insulin injections painful – they hurt less than taking finger stick glucose measurements.

You should be told:

  • how to do this
  • when to do this (usually before meals, at bedtime, or when you wake up)
  • how much to take (you may need to take more as your pregnancy progresses)
  • where to get advice and support if you have any questions.

Insulin can cause your blood sugar levels to fall to a low level (known as hypoglycaemia). You should be given information about how to treat and prevent hypoglycaemia.

Insulin is usually injected into fattier areas such as your tummy, bottom, flank or thighs. In late pregnancy, you might find it hard to reach your bottom or flank so you might prefer to use your thighs.

It is important to choose different areas to inject in rotation so that lumps don’t develop under the skin. These can stop the insulin being properly absorbed.

Your injection kit

To inject insulin safely, you’ll need:

  • An insulin pen – This may have insulin in already, which you throw away after it’s empty. Or you may be able to reuse the pen by changing the insulin cartridge yourself. 
  • A needle – This is small and thin, as it only has to go just under the skin, not into a muscle or vein. These can only be used once. 
  • A sharps bin or needle clipper – This is where you will safely throw away your needle. 

Steps to injecting insulin

Watch this film from Diabetes UK or follow the steps from their website below:

  • Wash and dry your hands.
  • Choose where you’re going to inject – You’re looking for fatty tissue so the main injection sites are your stomach (in a semi-circle under your belly button), sides of your thighs and your bum. It’s vital you choose a different spot each time – at least 1cm or half an inch from where you last injected. If not, hard lumps can appear that will stop your body absorbing and using the insulin properly.
  • Attach the needle to your pen – You remove the outer and inner caps and dial up 2 units of insulin. Point your pen upwards and press the plunger until insulin appears from the top of the needle. This is known as priming, and helps regulate your dose by removing any air from the needle and cartridge.
  • Dial your dose and make sure the spot you’re injecting is clean and dry.
  • Insert the needle at a right angle (90° angle). You might want to gently pinch the skin before injecting. Press the plunger until the dial goes back to 0.
  • Count to 10 slowly to give the insulin time to enter your body before removing the needle.
  • Throw away the needle using your needle clipper or sharps bin. Your healthcare team will tell you how to get rid of the bin safely when full.

 

Storing insulin

Keep the insulin that you are currently using at room temperature (under 25°C) as this makes it more comfortable to inject.

Any insulin that you are not currently using needs to stay in the fridge, at 2–6°C.

Room temperature is usually fine for the insulin you're using on the day. But this can be higher if the heating is on or it’s summer, so keep an eye on this and put it in the fridge if you’re worried. 

Don’t put your insulin in the freezer, because this may damage your medication. If you leave it out of the fridge for 28 days or more, you’ll need to throw it away as the insulin will have broken down.

Some insulins may need to be stored slightly differently so make sure you read the information leaflet that comes with yours, or ask your healthcare team for more advice.

Try not to be overwhelmed

Some women find the idea of having an injection overwhelming, especially at first. If your diagnosis has come as a shock, you may find it hard to take in the instructions for what you need to do.

"I wish I’d had some sort of support group. I don’t think I realised how much of an impact the gestational diabetes would have on me until I was right in it." 

Beth

If you are unsure about any of the steps, contact your healthcare team as soon as possible. You can also talk to your GP. You could also try the Diabetes UK helpline on 0345 123 2399, Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm or email [email protected]

If you're in Scotland, you can call 0141 212 8710, Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm or email [email protected]

You can also call our pregnancy line on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email us at [email protected].

 

Read more

Sources

NHS Choices. Gestational Diabetes. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gestational-diabetes/ (Page last reviewed: 06/08/2019. Next review due: 06/08/2022)

NHS Musgrove Park Hospital. (October 2016) Lipohypertrophy. https://www.tsft.nhs.uk/media/44600/Lipohypertrophy.pdf

Diabetes UK. Insulin and diabetes. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/treating-your-diabetes/insulin

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    Last reviewed on July 24th, 2020. Next review date July 24th, 2023.

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    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.

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