If you are found to have gestational diabetes, this is likely to be a worrying time for you. It is natural to want your pregnancy to go smoothly and it is normal to be anxious if something unexpected happens. But once gestational diabetes is diagnosed, you will have extra appointments and specialists who will help you navigate your pregnancy safely.
The important thing to remember is that if you follow the advice, you can help reduce the risks to you and your baby. For most women, having gestational diabetes will mean the following:
- more appointments to the medical team
- making changes to your lifestyle: diet and exercise
- monitoring your blood glucose levels and taking medication if necessary
- possible changes to the birth
This does mean that your experience of pregnancy may be different from what you had expected. But there is support out there – from your diabetes team and from your midwife.
"Gestational diabetes sounded like something small to me, but it was big. It changes your whole pregnancy – I couldn’t have the birth I wanted. It preyed on my mind and I started creating problems in my head, but looking at my son, you’d never know that anything had happened at all." Kate, mum of one
As gestational diabetes can be a warning of possible later type 2 diabetes, it gives you the chance to make lifestyle changes that may reduce your risks of developing diabetes in later life.
You will have more regular appointments and will see more specialist healthcare professionals.
Extra appointments during your pregnancy
As soon as you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes through tests, you will be offered an appointment with a specialist team within one week. It will probably be at your local pregnancy diabetes clinic and should start to receive extra care straight away.
At this point you should have the HbA1c test to check whether you had type 2 diabetes before you became pregnant.
You will have contact with the diabetes and antenatal team every one to two weeks throughout your pregnancy. This may be clinic appointments, or by phone or email to check that everything is fine.
"At first it was quite overwhelming. I was a borderline case but all of a sudden you’ve got a dietician and an obstetrician. Before, it had been just the midwife."Michelle, mum of two
Monitoring your glucose levels
Once you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, one of the most important things that you will have to do for the rest of your pregnancy is to measure your blood glucose levels at points during each day. Your healthcare team will teach you how to do this for yourself. They will also review you regularly, to check your results and make sure your diet, exercise and any medication are keeping your blood glucose levels under control.
None of these things are complicated in themselves, but they can take some getting used to. Most people find that over time, they get into a routine, but for the first couple of weeks it may feel very new and a little overwhelming.
As well as the routine scans offered to all pregnant women, you should be offered extra scans at various points through your pregnancy to check how your baby is growing and how much amniotic fluid you have. The timing of these scans may depend on your individual case.
These scans are important because one of the biggest risks in gestational diabetes is that the baby grows bigger than normal (macrosomia). This can cause complications when it comes to labour and giving birth.The team will need to check your baby’s size regularly and will talk to you about the best options for the birth of your baby. Towards the end of your pregnancy you will be checked very regularly to make sure that all is well.
"I was reassured that they were keeping an eye on me. At least I could see the baby was OK." Gemma, mum of one
Your team will give you plenty of information and advice about your care leading up to and after the birth. From around 38 weeks you will have appointments to check that your baby is doing well.
When to give birth
Your team will advise you to give birth no later than 40 weeks and 6 days if you are in England and Wales. Elective birth (by inducing labour or by caesarean section) will be offered if you have not given birth by this time.
In Scotland, you will be advised to have labour induced within 40 weeks.
Most women are daunted initially by the unfamiliar territory they find themselves in with gestational diabetes. Find some tips here on how to cope mentally.
Today, for women with gestational diabetes, the emphasis is on trying to keep the birth as normal as possible unless there is a particular reason to do things differently.
Women who are overweight are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, although many women who develop it are not overweight at all.
Exercise during pregnancy has a wide range of benefits for you and your baby. If you have gestational diabetes, you have even more reason to exercise: it can help reduce your blood glucose.
If you have gestational diabetes, your diet will become an important part of managing your condition and keeping your pregnancy safe.
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.
Some women can control their glucose levels through diet and exercise alone but the majority will need to take tablets or injections to help control it.
ℹLast reviewed on March 1st, 2015. Next review date March 1st, 2018.