During that appointment, the midwife or GP will carry out some routine tests (tests offered to every woman) and ask lots of questions. Some of the questions will help find out if you are at risk of developing gestational diabetes (they will be looking to see if you have any of the risk factors). If you are considered at high risk, you will be offered a test.
Agreeing to these tests is important because if you have gestational diabetes, there is a small increased risk of serious birth complications. Finding out if you have it and treating the condition can reduce those risks.
- If you are at risk of gestational diabetes but don’t take the test, it can’t be found and treated. This may increase the risk to you and your baby.
- If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will have more check-ups and extra care during your pregnancy and labour.
- In some women, gestational diabetes responds to changes in diet and exercise, while others will need to take medication, which may be in the form of tablets or insulin injections.
"I wasn’t obviously skinny, but I wasn’t massively obese either… I had no symptoms whatsoever. I had no expectation that the Lucozade test would be anything other than a formality."Beth, mum of two
What if I had gestational diabetes in an earlier pregnancy?
If you have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, you need to take action before you become pregnant again. You need to be scanned for diabetes when you are planning your pregnancy to make sure that your blood glucose levels are safe. You also need to be tested as soon as possible after your booking appointment or may be given a kit to monitor your own glucose levels. If your results are normal, you will be tested again later in your pregnancy, just to be sure.
The test for gestational diabetes - the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)/Lucozade test
Gestational diabetes is tested with the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). This is known sometimes as ‘the Lucozade test’, as people often drink Lucozade, a sugary drink, at step 3, below. The test is simple, and will not harm you or your baby. It may be carried out at your usual clinic or at a special diabetes clinic.
Step 1 You will usually be asked to eat nothing and drink only water the night before and on the morning of the test.
Step 2 A nurse takes a blood sample from you to measure your blood glucose level.
Step 3 You drink a glucose (sugary) drink.
Step 4 After two hours, the nurse takes another blood sample and measures your blood glucose level, to see how your body processed the sugars in the glucose drink.
Tip: You shouldn’t eat anything in between the two tests, but if you don’t live near the clinic it’s a good idea to bring a snack with you, as you will probably be hungry afterwards.
- SIGN (2010) Management of diabetes, a clinical guideline, Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network http://www.sign.ac.uk/pdf/sign116.pdf
- NICE (2015) Diabetes in pregnancy: management of diabetes and its complications from preconception to the postnatal period, National Institute of Health and Care Excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng3
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.
Help and support managing gestational diabetes
For most women, glucose levels return to normal the moment the baby is born, when your hormones return to their natural levels, and you will stop any treatment immediately.
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.
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 diabetes in pregnancy, your choice of food is an important part of managing your condition.
ℹLast reviewed on March 1st, 2015. Next review date March 1st, 2018.