Diabetes Week 12th - 18th June
Setting the record straight on gestational diabetes
We are supporting Diabetes Week with Diabetes UK and will be clearing up some of the myths around gestational diabetes.
Myth #1. Gestational diabetes is the same as other types of diabetes
Gestational diabetes is diabetes in pregnancy only. Although it has the same characteristics as other types of diabetes with presenting itself as high blood sugar levels, just like different types of diabetes, gestational diabetes is not the same as other types.
Myth #2. Only overweight people get gestational diabetes
Having a high BMI puts you at greater risk of having gestational diabetes, but ANY pregnant woman can be diagnosed. Gestational diabetes does not discriminate!
You have an increased risk of gestational diabetes if:
- your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or more
- you have previously had a baby who weighed 4.5kg (10lbs) or more at birth
- you had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- you have PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome)
- you have a family history of diabetes – one of your parents or siblings has diabetes
- your family origins are South Asian, black Caribbean or Middle Eastern
Myth #3. Gestational diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar or from poor diet
Gestational diabetes is not caused because by eating too much sugar, too much junk food, or from following a poor diet. (Although having a high BMI increases the risk as stated above).
During pregnancy, the body produces a number of hormones, such as oestrogen, progesterone and human placental lactogen (HPL). These hormones make the body insulin resistant, which means the cells respond less well to insulin and the level of glucose in the blood remains high.
To cope with the increased amount of glucose in the blood, the body should produce more insulin. However, some women either cannot produce enough insulin in pregnancy to transport the glucose into the cells, or their body cells are more resistant to insulin. This is known as 'gestational diabetes mellitus'. Gestational diabetes can be defined as carbohydrate intolerance.
Myth #4. If you have gestational diabetes you are diabetic for the rest of your life
Gestational diabetes increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes after the pregnancy. Statistics from Diabetes UK state that there is a seven-fold increased risk in women with gestational diabetes developing type 2 diabetes in later life. NICE state that up to 50% of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years of the birth.
You should be tested for diabetes after having your baby and then yearly.
Myth #5. Having gestational diabetes means you will have a big baby
Myth #6. Having gestational diabetes means you will have to take insulin
Many ladies successfully lower and stabilise their blood sugar levels with diet and exercise alone. Insulin may be used if blood sugar levels can not be lowered enough with diet or with medication such as Metformin.
Myth #7. Having gestational diabetes means you will need a Cesarean section
Gestational diabetes diagnosis is not a reason alone for advising a woman to have a cesarean section. The majority of women have vaginal births unless cesarean section is advised or needed for other reasons.
Myth #8. Having gestational diabetes means you have to be induced early
According to the current NICE guidelines induction (or elective caesarean section) should only be considered before 40+6 weeks for women with gestational diabetes if there are maternal or fetal complications.
Myth #9. You cannot have a water birth if you have gestational diabetes
Whilst some hospitals may dismiss water birth as a possibility, many ladies do successfully go on to have water births with gestational diabetes. For help with information and support around having a water birth, take a look at our water birth page and real life stories.
Myth #10. You cannot have a home birth if you have gestational diabetes
Many hospitals may advise against a home birth, however many ladies do successfully go on to have home births with gestational diabetes. For help with information and support around having a home birth, take a look at our home birth page and real life stories.
Myth #11. Gestational diabetes only appears in the third trimester
GDM typically presents itself between 24 - 28 weeks. It is for this reason that it is around this time where screening for gestational diabetes typically takes place. However, insulin resistance can be detected much earlier than this time, especially in subsequent pregnancies where the mother previously had gestational diabetes. We have seen many non-diabetic ladies be diagnosed with gestational diabetes in their first trimester, or as soon as they fall pregnant.
Myth #12. A high GTT (glucose tolerance test) result means you have pre-existing diabetes
We see this information given to many ladies however in the majority of cases, post birth diabetes testing proves they are no longer diabetic and it was just gestational diabetes. Our advice is do not panic and worry if you are told this. Enjoy your pregnancy and focus on eating well, exercising and doing your best to manage your gestational diabetes. When you have had your baby you will be tested for diabetes.
Myth #13. A low or borderline GTT (glucose tolerance test) result means that you don't have gestational diabetes that bad and you will be able to control with minimal effort or diet control
Sadly this is a myth that many health care professionals may say to ladies with 'borderline' diagnosis. In our experience, this leads ladies into a false sense of security and means that they struggle even more when insulin resistance worsens and they may need meds and/or insulin. Here are some mothers experiences of borderline diagnosis.
Myth #14. Gestational diabetes 'just' causes bigger babies and isn't a real concern
Gestational diabetes is a serious condition that can cause many complications if it is not diagnosed and monitored.
Sadly not all hospital trusts routinely test for gestational diabetes. We would love to see all pregnant women screened for gestational diabetes and at risk women screened earlier.
Some ladies struggle with the diagnosis that it means a 'label' of gestational diabetes will change their whole pregnancy and birth. Our aim is to help you through this, so that you still enjoy your pregnancy and go on to have the birth you want and a healthy, happy baby.
Myth #15. You can't eat anything nice when you have gestational diabetes
There's TONS of lovely things you can eat and drink with gestational diabetes. We'll help you with ideas and inspiration for real food that will help lower and stabilise your blood sugar levels but tastes GREAT!
We also have a membership section if you feel you need shopping lists and meal plans to follow.
Myth #16. You will get gestational diabetes in all subsequent pregnancies
Once you've had gestational diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes in future pregnancies but it is not definite. If you have high BMI, losing weight and exercising can help lower the chances of developing GDM again.
Myth #17. Gestational diabetes only impacts the baby whilst it grows in the uterus
Children born to mothers with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of being having obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
Diagnosis of gestational diabetes can be an opportunity to learn more about good lifestyle choices for our growing families, to help protect their futures.
Support Diabetes UK
You can support Diabetes UK by following #DiabetesWeek, their campaigns and work and by donating to the Diabetes UK charity here. Donations help them continue their work to prevent and, one day, cure the condition.
Support Gestational Diabetes UK
You can help support Gestational Diabetes UK by helping to raise awareness of gestational diabetes, not just during Diabetes Week, but at any time. Help by sharing this post and dispelling some of the common myths associated with gestational diabetes. It could be your sister, your Aunt, your friend who is diagnosed next. Don't let them suffer alone, we're here to support and help them.
*Please note Gestational Diabetes UK is not affiliated with the Diabetes UK charity or organisation.