About Us - Gestational Diabetes UK
Gestational Diabetes UK is here to help and support anyone with gestational diabetes or those who would like to know more about the condition. To share information, experience, evidence based research, advice and tips on ways to better control and stabilise blood glucose levels through dietary and lifestyle changes (some of which are contrary to the typical NHS dietary advice) in an aim to achieve the best outcome for our babies and ourselves.
I aim to help with information and support from pre-conception, right through pregnancy and birth, to annual testing for diabetes post birth, information regarding future health and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
About Gestational Diabetes UK
(about me - the author and founder)
Hi my name is Jo, I'm 39 years old, married Mum of three beautiful boys. I'm from Cambridgeshire, but now live in the beautiful Scottish Borders. I have PCOS and endometriosis and so I have been blessed with my three miracle 'sugar babies'. I'm not a medical professional and have no medical qualifications at all. I'm a Mum, just a Mum.
In July 2014 I was pregnant with my second baby and half way through my second very long gestational diabetes journey (I was diagnosed at 10 weeks). I was fed up with searching for other Mums in the UK with GD, surely there were a few out there, my clinic was packed, yet I didn't actually know any other Mums with gestational diabetes, or anyone who had it in previous pregnancies.
I used Facebook a lot and so it seemed natural to search for support in that domain. I joined some American based Facebook GD support groups and their advice and info was so different from what is advised in the UK. The foods and snacks were not things that were available to buy here, they use a different measurement for testing blood sugars, tested for ketones daily and talked about stress tests. They also seemed to love cheating the diet, which I just couldn't understand. Why would you eat things in the knowledge that it could cause high blood sugar levels?
I looked on other websites for chat forums on gestational diabetes, but couldn't find anything that offered much support or knowledge. So I decided if I couldn't find a group, it was time to create one for the UK & ROI and Gestational Diabetes UK Facebook support group was born!
The group started off small but it grew rapidly. There was an obvious need for a UK support group and I found lots of Mums struggling along, just as I was. The biggest shock was to see so many differences in medical practice all over the UK. I'd presumed the guidelines and advice would be the same all over. How wrong was I?! It was obvious that we had so many unanswered questions over things and so that's when I started researching gestational diabetes in much more detail.
I learnt lots through the growing members experience, plus all the research I was doing. There was an obvious lack of support and advice for Mums with gestational diabetes and in many areas the dietary advice was extremely lacking or in fact, detrimental to the condition.
Many ladies were being put on medication and/or insulin, when actually had they been given better advice, they could've carried on with dietary control for longer and possibly throughout their whole pregnancy.
The next step was a group for ladies to join for when they'd had their babies as we noticed that people didn't want to leave the GD group, but it was becoming over run with posts regarding all things new baby. This is when the 'Life After GD UK' support group was born. This is a group for any of our GD Mums that have had their baby/babies, but still wanted to catch up, discuss post birth diabetes testing and all things new baby. More recently we have opened this to our pregnant members for off topic chat too, so that our main GD group remains focused on GD related subjects only.
A year after creating the original Gestational Diabetes UK group and helping over 1,000 Mums in the UK & ROI, I decided it was time to reach out to more people, in the hopes of spreading some more awareness around this condition that many had not heard of, or if they had, felt it was a taboo condition brought on by eating too many sweets.
One of the big issues we saw being posted in group was that partners, family and friends did not understand gestational diabetes and would say things like "you can just have a little piece of cake, it won't hurt you". It upset many Mums that their nearest and dearest could not understand how serious gestational diabetes can be and the complications it can cause to the baby, with comments such as "but it just means a bigger baby".
I created a public Facebook page for Gestational Diabetes UK in the hopes of creating an area where partners, family and friends who couldn't see the information in the closed group could find out a bit more about gestational diabetes.
The Gestational Diabetes UK Facebook support group has now seen well over 10,000 Mums join and pass through! Something I would never have dreamed of when starting my little group in search of others like me back when I was pregnant!
I have to say Thank you to my wonderful Facebook admin team (the GD UK Advisors). These ladies are all previous members of the Facebook group who are passionate about supporting other women with GD, all women that have been there and experienced the difficulties of dealing with a GD pregnancy. Without you ladies I couldn't keep the groups running. So Thank you girls from the bottom of my heart.
Also a huge thank you to my husband Gavin for being a wonderful father to our sugar babies, for all his support and patience since I started this mad venture! xxx
The Gestational Diabetes UK website
Reaching even further, turning this into a full time job
Many of the members feel like they would not have had the pregnancy or GD journey they had if it wasn't for the help, support and advice offered in the Facebook support group. You can read some of their comments on the testimonials page.
I continued to research gestational diabetes further and believed that it was time to move beyond Facebook and reach out to a wider audience. Especially as I know how little information and guidance is given to those who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes in some areas.
I chose to launch a website over writing a book so that I could constantly update and refresh the information, keeping on top of research and data. The more I learn, the more I want to share.
The website has been a huge learning curve and gamble, especially as I have very little IT skills or knowledge, but with the help of YouTube clips and lots of researching online, I seem to have managed to cobble something together that is working.
Optional Membership to fund the site and my work
My Facebook members always asked for a 7 day meal plan and recipes to go alongside my knowledge of a GD diet that works.
To pay for the costs involved in running the website and so that I didn't ruin the website with annoying pop ups and advertising banners, I decided to offer an optional membership.
I now offer 2 membership options, Bronze and Silver. This membership helps pay for the running costs of the website and small wage to myself as a stay at home mother, so that I can continue with my passion of researching and helping mothers with gestational diabetes. It also means that the information on the website remains free for all to use.
I also launched more social media accounts to reach those that may not find GD UK on Facebook or online:
Twitter where I share information, raise awareness and try to challenge some of the issues ladies with Gestational Diabetes face
Instagram where I share recipes, food ideas, hints, tips and try to raise awareness for Gestational Diabetes
Pinterest where I share helpful links to the website and others that I feel may benefit ladies with Gestational Diabetes
I now have more and more hospitals advocating the website and Facebook support group to their patients and hope to improve working relationships and see more professionals come on board soon! I have created posters that are now used and displayed in many clinics across the country. Please feel free to download a copy to use if you wish.
Gestational Diabetes UK being recognised and used as a resource
I have worked with the media such as radio stations, ITV news and Channel 5 news when articles have been launched on gestational diabetes and with Sam Feltham at the Public Health Collaboration (who are a cause very close to my heart too).
In this last year, I have also been privileged to work with Tommy's midwives, helping to review their information on gestational diabetes. As well as Kings College London to help give feedback on information used for a cartoon leaflet given to women diagnosed with GD and have been involved in recruiting and giving feedback on many research studies including one for the University of Edinburgh and University of Leicester. My most recent achievements are seeing Baby Centre UK advertising my website for additional support on dietary info for women with GD and an article on Made For Mums
If you would like to work with me, then please get in touch!, Jo