Gestational diabetes and injecting insulin

No one enjoys injections, but an insulin injection is very different to any injection you may have had before.

The insulin is often contained in a pen device with a very small needle that works with a spring. The injections are not usually painful, though they may feel worse if you are anxious. Once people learn to relax, they often find that it is straightforward.

Insulin is usually injected into fattier areas such as your tummy, buttocks or thighs.

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

Some women feel worried about injecting into their tummy during pregnancy and prefer to use their thighs. In late pregnancy you might find it hard to reach your buttocks so your choice might be limited by where you can reach.

Steps to injecting insulin

Watch this film from Diabetes UK or follow the steps below

Your diabetes team will teach you how to inject insulin, but you can use these steps as a quick reminder.

You will need: a pen or syringe, a clean needle, a vial of insulin, a swab to clean the skin, a sharps bin for the used needle.

Step 1 Expel two units of insulin into the air to make sure the needle is completely full of insulin.

Step 2 Make sure you have the correct dose.

Step 3 Decide where you are going to inject.

Step 4 If you find the injections painful, rub ice on the area for 20 seconds. Then dry it.

Step 5 Gently pinch a fold of skin, if your team has taught you to do this (usually only if you are very slim).

Step 6 Put the needle in quickly.

Step 7 Inject the insulin, making sure you have pushed down the plunger or button fully.

Step 8 Count to ten before pulling the needle out.

Step 9 If you pinched a skin fold in Step 4, now let it go.

Step 10 Dispose of the needle safely in a sharps bin.

Step 11 If you have any problems at all, contact your diabetes team or call the Diabetes UK Careline

"I had this little pack with a pen and other bits and bobs – the glucose level and then a little book where I wrote it down. It was so much part of my life, but I’ve completely forgotten about it now." Katie, mum of two

Try not to be overwhelmed

For many women, the reality of fingerprick tests and injections can feel quite overwhelming – especially at first. If the news of your diagnosis has come as a shock, you may find it hard to take in the instructions of the new activities you will now have to carry out. 

"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, mum of two

If you are unsure about any of the steps, contact your healthcare team as soon as possible. If it is out of hours, you could contact your GP, the Diabetes UK careline 0345 123 2399, Tommy’s helpline or try your local pharmacist.

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 2–8°C.

If any insulin has been out of the fridge for 28 days, you will need to throw it away.

It must not get too cold or too warm either, so keep it away from the freezer compartment or sunny windows or radiators.

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

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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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