“I’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. What does this mean?”
DOUGLAS TWENEFOUR, CLINICAL ADVISOR FOR DIABETES UK, SAYS
“Gestational diabetes usually occurs in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Your body needs more of the hormone insulin and, if it doesn’t produce enough naturally, your blood glucose (sugars) can become too high. Women who develop the condition do not have diabetes before their pregnancy, although you are more susceptible if you have had gestational diabetes before, have a family history of diabetes, or were obese before pregnancy.
“Risks associated with gestational diabetes include premature birth, induction and c-section – the condition increases your chance of having a bigger baby, so your team may want to deliver him or her early. Both you and your baby are also at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later on, which is why your antenatal team will help you manage the condition as soon as it’s picked up. This is usually through screening between 24 and 28 weeks, although it may be earlier if you’re at higher risk of the condition or have had it before. There are symptoms, such as needing the loo more and feeling tired, but these are common in pregnancy.
“The first step when it comes to managing the condition is looking at your lifestyle. You’ll be advised on how to manage your weight and given a kit to track your blood-sugar levels. Cut back on sugar, salt and saturated fats, and take up physical activity. A low-GI diet is very effective – eat pulses and oats and switch to wholegrain bread and pasta, but be careful with your portions. If changing your diet doesn’t control your blood sugars to the target levels, medication or insulin injections may be added.
“You should be offered extra scans to make sure you and your baby are fine. Having gestational diabetes means you tend to be diagnosed as a high-risk pregnancy, which can affect how and where you give birth, so discuss this with your midwife. Your baby will be checked after birth and you’ll have a blood test six weeks later to make sure your bloodsugar levels have returned to normal. Continue with any healthy lifestyle changes to lower your risk developing Type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes if you get pregnant again.’
“Overhauling my diet helped”
KATE SUTHERLAND, 38, FROM ESSEX, MUM TO ELLIOT, NINE MONTHS, SAYS
“My gestational diabetes was diagnosed with a routine test at 28 weeks, so I was referred to the hospital’s diabetic clinic to see a specialist midwife. “She gave me a booklet and explained how to test my blood sugars at home. This involved pricking my finger and using a machine to check my blood three or four times a day, before recording the results. I also switched to wholegrain foods and cut back on chocolate and biscuits.
“My pregnancy was labelled as high risk because of the diabetes. I was upset that an induction could be on the cards, which could mean my planned water birth was in jeopardy. My hospital team advised me against getting in the birthing pool, but I insisted – so we found a compromise where I’d be monitored regularly to make sure Elliot and I were OK. He was born fi ve days before his due date. Elliot and I are both fi ne, but I’ve kept up the healthier eating and exercise to reduce my chance of getting gestational diabetes in the future.” ■