pregnant woman being tested for gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is high among the many worries of mums-to-be.

Hearing that you have diabetes is a scary moment, especially when we associate diabetes with all sorts of horrible things like blood tests, injections and major changes to our diets.

Add in the sense of guilt that some mums feel (or are made to feel) about their diagnosis, the fear of the unknown, and the well-meaning but often misinformed advice of outsiders, and it is no wonder mums with gestational diabetes can feel pretty glum.

The good news about gestational diabetes is that it usually goes away after pregnancy and isn’t a long term condition.

But it can have some cruddy symptoms whilst you’re expecting and make your pregnancy higher risk. As a result, your midwife and medical team will keep an eye out for it, so they can treat it asap.

We’ve been chatting to pregnant ladies and mums who’ve had GD, to find out their burning questions and their experiences of the condition.

 

What is gestational diabetes? Why does gestational diabetes occur?

Like other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes is when you have too much sugar in your blood stream. This happens when the body isn’t making enough insulin to control your sugar levels.

pregnant-woman-eating-sugary-foods-and-at-risk-of-gestational-diabetes

It happens in pregnancy because the body makes extra blood to support your growing baba, and sometimes its insulin production can’t keep up.

 

When does gestational diabetes start?

Gestational diabetes can start at any time during your pregnancy, but it is usually detected in the second or third trimester. This is when you’ve got lots more blood going around your body, taking all those nutrients to your growing bump. Plus this is the most common time for at risk mums to be tested.

 

What causes gestational diabetes?

There are a couple of risk factors that mean you’re more likely to experience gestational diabetes.

According to the NHS, you're more likely to develop GD if:

  1. your body mass index (BMI) is above 30
  2. you previously had a baby who weighed 10lb or more at birth
  3. you had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  4. your parents or siblings has diabetes
  5. you are of south Asian, Black, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern origin

    People who have these risk factors are usually offered screening a test to catch the pesky problem as soon as possible.

    'I’d not really given it much thought before I was diagnosed. I had no symptoms. But when I went to my first appointment with the diabetes nurse she was very matter of fact and said I had 4/5 of the factors that increased my chances of getting it (higher BMI, over 35, family history, and south Asian origin).’

     

    What does gestational diabetes feels like? What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

    In some cases, gestational diabetes doesn’t cause any symptoms at all. Some mums get through pregnancy in blissful ignorance of the increased glucose whizzing round their veins. Often, GD is only diagnosed due to routine testing.

    However, some pregnant women do experience symptoms and it is worth knowing what they are. The bad news is the symptoms of GD are exactly the same as just being pregnant!

    ‘In my first pregnancy I had dizziness and sickness when eating sugary stuff. Headaches, severe fluid retention.’

    Thirst: Most mums-to-be know the most common symptom of gestational diabetes is increased thirst. But don’t panic if you feel like you could down endless pints of H₂O. Feeling thirsty is also a symptom of pregnancy, as your body sucks up all the liquid it can get to make more blood. I know – pregnancy is magical and gross at the same time!

    pregnant-woman-thirsty-symptom-of-gestational-diabetes

    Needing to wee: You might also need to wee a lot more often. Hello? Also just a symptom of having another human living right on top of your bladder.

    Tiredness: Tiredness is another common symptom. But what expectant mum doesn’t feel like they could happily fall asleep on a bed of nails?

     

    If you’re worried about any of the symptoms above, tell you midwife, especially if you have any of the risk factors described above. But don’t assume that being a worn-out wee-machine means you have diabetes. It might just mean you have a baby on board.

    ‘I was more thirsty than normal. I also had a fungal infection when I was around five weeks pregnant and the doctor said that could be an indicator the GD was back.’

     

    Why is gestational diabetes dangerous / considered high risk?

    Most women with gestational diabetes enjoy a perfectly problem-free pregnancy, routine birth and healthy baby.

    However, GD can cause problems for some mums and their little ones. The good news is, if GD is detected early and managed properly, you can greatly reduce the risks.

    It is always scary to hear you have a condition affecting your pregnancy, but GD is very well understood, so try to relax.

    With that in mind, here are some of the problems associated with gestational diabetes.

    Big babies – No mum wants to think about having a big baby, for obvious reasons! Ouch. But big babies can lead to difficulties with delivery. This may mean women with GD are asked to consider induction to bring on labour sooner, or c-section to deliver the baby. 

    Excess amniotic fluid – the fancy pants name for this is polyhydramnios. It just means too much amniotic fluid around the baby. This can cause premature and problematic labour.

    Premature labour – gestational diabetes can lead to baby coming early, before they’re fully cooked. This isn’t ideal as baby needs time to fully develop, especially their little lungs. Babies are considered premature if they are born before the 37th week of pregnancy.

    Pre-eclampsia – this means high blood pressure in pregnancy and can cause swell, pain, headaches and vision problems. Untreated, it can cause severe complications, so be alert. 

    But remember, Mommees, these complications are rare and you’re being well-looked after, so try not to worry.

     

    Are gestational diabetes babies always big?!

     big baby

    Big babies are such a well known side effect of gestational diabetes that some ladies instinctively cross their legs and wince when they get the diagnosis!

    But we spoke to lots of mums who’d had GD and their babies were exactly on track for normal growth and development. Some even said their babies were on the small side.

    So take talk of giant babies with a pinch of salt and don’t let well-meaning but misinformed friends and family scare you.

    ‘I was induced early as they said baby would be big. 37 weeks with first one and she was only 5lb 5oz!’

     

    How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

    At your booking appointment (your first appointment with your midwife, between 8-12 weeks) you’ll be assessed for your risk factor for gestational diabetes. If you’re a bit plump or have a history of diabetes, you’re likely to get tested. See the list of risk factors above.

    If your healthcare team do decide to test you for gestational diabetes, you’ll take the glucose tolerance test. If you think a glucose tolerance test is how many Celebrations you can eat at Christmas without getting headswim, you’re sadly mistaken. But it really isn’t as bad as it might sound.

    1. You fast overnight
    2. You have a blood test to check the level of glucose in your bloodstream
    3. You drink a super sweet drink and wait two hours
    4. You have another blood test to check your glucose level again

    ‘I’ve always been overweight and had a high BMI in pregnancy. My bump size was ahead of the curve. As a result, I had the GTT numerous times. Each time it came back negative. It is better to be safe than sorry but I did feel people kept assuming I’d have GD because of my weight issues’.

     

    When do you get tested for gestational diabetes?

    If you’ve had GD in a previous pregnancy, you’ll be tested as soon as possible.

    If this is your first pregnancy or first time identified as being at risk, you’ll be tested between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant.

    You may be tested at any point during your pregnancy if you develop symptoms that your healthcare team associate with gestational diabetes, such as excess amniotic fluid or baby measuring large against expectations.

     

    How gestational diabetes is treated?

    During pregnancy

    The good news is, if you get diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you’ll be well looked after, monitored and supported by your healthcare team.

    tested by doctor in pregnancy

    Usually GD is treated through diet and exercise. Reducing your sugar intake, eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are the best ways to reduce the impact of gestational diabetes.

    ‘I obsessed about what I ate and when. I kept a food diary for the remaining 12 weeks of my pregnancy where I logged what I ate and when and how much water I drank (I was drinking between 3-5 litres of water a day!). On top of that I was also going for an evening walk after my last meal every night - come rain or shine!’

    The usual recommendations for a healthy diet apply, including:

    • eat three regular meals a day
    • eat starchy and low GI foods like wholemeal pasta and brown rice
    • eat your five-a-day of fruit and veg
    • avoid sugar foods and drinks

    However, if this doesn’t work in your case, you may also required mediation; either tablets or injections. You’ll get a blood sugar testing kit so you can monitor your glucose levels at home.

    ‘With my second pregnancy, I had a home testing kit and did that at home from early in my pregnancy. I followed the diet from the GD UK website from the beginning so my numbers were a lot better and only a few highs.’

    In and around labour

    Potential complications associated with gestational diabetes mean that you may be offered early delivery, induction or a caesarian section.

    Many mums-to-be feel upset at the thought of having this sorts of intervention in their pregnancy, and you should discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

    ‘With my first I was induced at 38 weeks. I felt I had no choices and it wasn’t a good experience. Second time round I knew my rights and made informed choices. I had a home birth at 39+5.’

    However, if you do decide to proceed with one of these options, don’t stress. Every woman, pregnancy and labour is different. It is the outcome that matters – a healthy baby and mum.

    Don’t sweat the ‘how’, when the ‘what’ is the most important thing.

     

    Where can I get support with gestational diabetes?

    Sportee Mommee spoke to mums who’d experienced gestational diabetes. And whilst some said they had no physical symptoms, all of them reported an emotional response to the diagnosis.

    ‘Emotionally I felt awful. I cried for days and couldn’t talk about it without bursting into tears. I felt like I’d failed and that it was my fault for being heavier. I was a bit of a mess.’

    They felt that the GD diagnosis added to an already worrying time.

    ‘Pregnancy is a worrying enough time as it is without any added complications. GD can be quite isolating.’

    Some mums struggled with the pressures of repeated tests.

    ‘The worst thing was constant testing and having to go to the clinic every 2 weeks. Second time around, I had to take my 1yo with me and it was extremely stressful.’

    Whilst others found the restriction to their diet and lack of advice from healthcare professionals made their experience difficult.

    ‘I felt fine, but mentally it was frustrating as you're already restricted on food choices due to pregnancy, but then to have further limitations as a result of GD diagnosis.’

    Luckily, there are peer support groups for women with gestational diabetes and they got a big thumbs up from our GD mums.

    pregnant woman finding peer support groups online

    ‘I joined a Facebook group called Gestational Diabetes UK Mums which was recommended by a friend and that was an absolute God send. There was tons of info, advice, recipes and meal plans - it was brilliant and kept me going.’

    If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, our mums suggest looking at www.gestationaldiabetes.co.uk for advice on diet and self-management, and the related Facebook group for support and chat.

     

    Find out more

    pregnant woman being tested for gestational diabetes

    Gestational diabetes is high among the many worries of mums-to-be.

    Hearing that you have diabetes is a scary moment, especially when we associate diabetes with all sorts of horrible things like blood tests, injections and major changes to our diets.

    Add in the sense of guilt that some mums feel (or are made to feel) about their diagnosis, the fear of the unknown, and the well-meaning but often misinformed advice of outsiders, and it is no wonder mums with gestational diabetes can feel pretty glum.

    The good news about gestational diabetes is that it usually goes away after pregnancy and isn’t a long term condition.

    But it can have some cruddy symptoms whilst you’re expecting and make your pregnancy higher risk. As a result, your midwife and medical team will keep an eye out for it, so they can treat it asap.

    We’ve been chatting to pregnant ladies and mums who’ve had GD, to find out their burning questions and their experiences of the condition.

     

    What is gestational diabetes? Why does gestational diabetes occur?

    Like other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes is when you have too much sugar in your blood stream. This happens when the body isn’t making enough insulin to control your sugar levels.

    pregnant-woman-eating-sugary-foods-and-at-risk-of-gestational-diabetes

    It happens in pregnancy because the body makes extra blood to support your growing baba, and sometimes its insulin production can’t keep up.

     

    When does gestational diabetes start?

    Gestational diabetes can start at any time during your pregnancy, but it is usually detected in the second or third trimester. This is when you’ve got lots more blood going around your body, taking all those nutrients to your growing bump. Plus this is the most common time for at risk mums to be tested.

     

    What causes gestational diabetes?

    There are a couple of risk factors that mean you’re more likely to experience gestational diabetes.

    According to the NHS, you're more likely to develop GD if:

    1. your body mass index (BMI) is above 30
    2. you previously had a baby who weighed 10lb or more at birth
    3. you had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
    4. your parents or siblings has diabetes
    5. you are of south Asian, Black, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern origin

      People who have these risk factors are usually offered screening a test to catch the pesky problem as soon as possible.

      'I’d not really given it much thought before I was diagnosed. I had no symptoms. But when I went to my first appointment with the diabetes nurse she was very matter of fact and said I had 4/5 of the factors that increased my chances of getting it (higher BMI, over 35, family history, and south Asian origin).’

       

      What does gestational diabetes feels like? What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

      In some cases, gestational diabetes doesn’t cause any symptoms at all. Some mums get through pregnancy in blissful ignorance of the increased glucose whizzing round their veins. Often, GD is only diagnosed due to routine testing.

      However, some pregnant women do experience symptoms and it is worth knowing what they are. The bad news is the symptoms of GD are exactly the same as just being pregnant!

      ‘In my first pregnancy I had dizziness and sickness when eating sugary stuff. Headaches, severe fluid retention.’

      Thirst: Most mums-to-be know the most common symptom of gestational diabetes is increased thirst. But don’t panic if you feel like you could down endless pints of H₂O. Feeling thirsty is also a symptom of pregnancy, as your body sucks up all the liquid it can get to make more blood. I know – pregnancy is magical and gross at the same time!

      pregnant-woman-thirsty-symptom-of-gestational-diabetes

      Needing to wee: You might also need to wee a lot more often. Hello? Also just a symptom of having another human living right on top of your bladder.

      Tiredness: Tiredness is another common symptom. But what expectant mum doesn’t feel like they could happily fall asleep on a bed of nails?

       

      If you’re worried about any of the symptoms above, tell you midwife, especially if you have any of the risk factors described above. But don’t assume that being a worn-out wee-machine means you have diabetes. It might just mean you have a baby on board.

      ‘I was more thirsty than normal. I also had a fungal infection when I was around five weeks pregnant and the doctor said that could be an indicator the GD was back.’

       

      Why is gestational diabetes dangerous / considered high risk?

      Most women with gestational diabetes enjoy a perfectly problem-free pregnancy, routine birth and healthy baby.

      However, GD can cause problems for some mums and their little ones. The good news is, if GD is detected early and managed properly, you can greatly reduce the risks.

      It is always scary to hear you have a condition affecting your pregnancy, but GD is very well understood, so try to relax.

      With that in mind, here are some of the problems associated with gestational diabetes.

      Big babies – No mum wants to think about having a big baby, for obvious reasons! Ouch. But big babies can lead to difficulties with delivery. This may mean women with GD are asked to consider induction to bring on labour sooner, or c-section to deliver the baby. 

      Excess amniotic fluid – the fancy pants name for this is polyhydramnios. It just means too much amniotic fluid around the baby. This can cause premature and problematic labour.

      Premature labour – gestational diabetes can lead to baby coming early, before they’re fully cooked. This isn’t ideal as baby needs time to fully develop, especially their little lungs. Babies are considered premature if they are born before the 37th week of pregnancy.

      Pre-eclampsia – this means high blood pressure in pregnancy and can cause swell, pain, headaches and vision problems. Untreated, it can cause severe complications, so be alert. 

      But remember, Mommees, these complications are rare and you’re being well-looked after, so try not to worry.

       

      Are gestational diabetes babies always big?!

       big baby

      Big babies are such a well known side effect of gestational diabetes that some ladies instinctively cross their legs and wince when they get the diagnosis!

      But we spoke to lots of mums who’d had GD and their babies were exactly on track for normal growth and development. Some even said their babies were on the small side.

      So take talk of giant babies with a pinch of salt and don’t let well-meaning but misinformed friends and family scare you.

      ‘I was induced early as they said baby would be big. 37 weeks with first one and she was only 5lb 5oz!’

       

      How is gestational diabetes diagnosed?

      At your booking appointment (your first appointment with your midwife, between 8-12 weeks) you’ll be assessed for your risk factor for gestational diabetes. If you’re a bit plump or have a history of diabetes, you’re likely to get tested. See the list of risk factors above.

      If your healthcare team do decide to test you for gestational diabetes, you’ll take the glucose tolerance test. If you think a glucose tolerance test is how many Celebrations you can eat at Christmas without getting headswim, you’re sadly mistaken. But it really isn’t as bad as it might sound.

      1. You fast overnight
      2. You have a blood test to check the level of glucose in your bloodstream
      3. You drink a super sweet drink and wait two hours
      4. You have another blood test to check your glucose level again

      ‘I’ve always been overweight and had a high BMI in pregnancy. My bump size was ahead of the curve. As a result, I had the GTT numerous times. Each time it came back negative. It is better to be safe than sorry but I did feel people kept assuming I’d have GD because of my weight issues’.

       

      When do you get tested for gestational diabetes?

      If you’ve had GD in a previous pregnancy, you’ll be tested as soon as possible.

      If this is your first pregnancy or first time identified as being at risk, you’ll be tested between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant.

      You may be tested at any point during your pregnancy if you develop symptoms that your healthcare team associate with gestational diabetes, such as excess amniotic fluid or baby measuring large against expectations.

       

      How gestational diabetes is treated?

      During pregnancy

      The good news is, if you get diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you’ll be well looked after, monitored and supported by your healthcare team.

      tested by doctor in pregnancy

      Usually GD is treated through diet and exercise. Reducing your sugar intake, eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are the best ways to reduce the impact of gestational diabetes.

      ‘I obsessed about what I ate and when. I kept a food diary for the remaining 12 weeks of my pregnancy where I logged what I ate and when and how much water I drank (I was drinking between 3-5 litres of water a day!). On top of that I was also going for an evening walk after my last meal every night - come rain or shine!’

      The usual recommendations for a healthy diet apply, including:

      • eat three regular meals a day
      • eat starchy and low GI foods like wholemeal pasta and brown rice
      • eat your five-a-day of fruit and veg
      • avoid sugar foods and drinks

      However, if this doesn’t work in your case, you may also required mediation; either tablets or injections. You’ll get a blood sugar testing kit so you can monitor your glucose levels at home.

      ‘With my second pregnancy, I had a home testing kit and did that at home from early in my pregnancy. I followed the diet from the GD UK website from the beginning so my numbers were a lot better and only a few highs.’

      In and around labour

      Potential complications associated with gestational diabetes mean that you may be offered early delivery, induction or a caesarian section.

      Many mums-to-be feel upset at the thought of having this sorts of intervention in their pregnancy, and you should discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

      ‘With my first I was induced at 38 weeks. I felt I had no choices and it wasn’t a good experience. Second time round I knew my rights and made informed choices. I had a home birth at 39+5.’

      However, if you do decide to proceed with one of these options, don’t stress. Every woman, pregnancy and labour is different. It is the outcome that matters – a healthy baby and mum.

      Don’t sweat the ‘how’, when the ‘what’ is the most important thing.

       

      Where can I get support with gestational diabetes?

      Sportee Mommee spoke to mums who’d experienced gestational diabetes. And whilst some said they had no physical symptoms, all of them reported an emotional response to the diagnosis.

      ‘Emotionally I felt awful. I cried for days and couldn’t talk about it without bursting into tears. I felt like I’d failed and that it was my fault for being heavier. I was a bit of a mess.’

      They felt that the GD diagnosis added to an already worrying time.

      ‘Pregnancy is a worrying enough time as it is without any added complications. GD can be quite isolating.’

      Some mums struggled with the pressures of repeated tests.

      ‘The worst thing was constant testing and having to go to the clinic every 2 weeks. Second time around, I had to take my 1yo with me and it was extremely stressful.’

      Whilst others found the restriction to their diet and lack of advice from healthcare professionals made their experience difficult.

      ‘I felt fine, but mentally it was frustrating as you're already restricted on food choices due to pregnancy, but then to have further limitations as a result of GD diagnosis.’

      Luckily, there are peer support groups for women with gestational diabetes and they got a big thumbs up from our GD mums.

      pregnant woman finding peer support groups online

      ‘I joined a Facebook group called Gestational Diabetes UK Mums which was recommended by a friend and that was an absolute God send. There was tons of info, advice, recipes and meal plans - it was brilliant and kept me going.’

      If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, our mums suggest looking at www.gestationaldiabetes.co.uk for advice on diet and self-management, and the related Facebook group for support and chat.

       

      Find out more