Gestational Diabetes UK®
Gestational Diabetes UK® is here to help and support anyone with gestational diabetes, those who would like to know more about the condition and those who care for people with gestational diabetes [GDM]. 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 may be contrary to the typical NHS dietary advice), in an aim to achieve the best outcomes for babies and the mother.
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 future risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
About Gestational Diabetes UK®
(About me – Gestational Diabetes UK Founder)
Hi, my name is Jo, I’m a 42-year-old, married Mum of three beautiful boys. I’m from Cambridgeshire but now live in the beautiful Scottish Borders. I have PCOS and endometriosis but have been blessed with three miracles, my ‘sugar babies’. I’m not a medical professional and have no medical qualifications. I’m a Mum, with lived experience of gestational diabetes, who has devoted as much time as possible since my second pregnancy in 2014, to researching and supporting others with GDM.
I have high insulin resistance during pregnancy which results in gestational diabetes, requiring strict diet control alongside high amounts of insulin. I have been fortunate that my gestational diabetes has always been diagnosed early, in my second trimester with my first pregnancy, at 10 weeks in my second and a few days after a positive pregnancy test with my third.
I have received care and had induced births in 3 different hospitals across the UK [Rosie Maternity, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge in 2008, Hull Women & Children’s Hospital in 2014, and Borders General Hospital, Scotland in 2017]. This means I have had first-hand experience in the different test targets, times, advice and care received during GDM pregnancy.
Despite being diagnosed as soon as I fell pregnant and requiring just over 200 units of insulin daily in my third pregnancy, 14 years on from my first GD pregnancy and 4.5 years since my last, I am still not diabetic and have normal HbA1c levels.
After struggling with high blood glucose levels despite following all the advice given by my diabetes specialists and then suffering early placenta deterioration in my first pregnancy , which led to rapid induction of labour without being given much support or advice around the reasons why or explanations as to what would happen, let alone any ‘choices’ around my birth, I knew I wanted to find the best way to control and manage my GDM when I fell pregnant 6 years later.
In July 2014 I was pregnant with my second baby and halfway through my second very long gestational diabetes journey (diagnosed at 10 weeks). I was fed up with searching for other Mums in the UK with GD. My antenatal diabetes clinic was packed every week, yet I didn’t actually know any other Mums with gestational diabetes, or anyone who had it in previous pregnancies.
How it all started, my Facebook group
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 were 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 (mg/dL instead of mmol/L), tested for ketones daily and talked about ‘stress tests’. There were constant posts on cheating the diet and having days off, which I just couldn’t understand. Why would you purposely eat things in the knowledge that it could cause high blood sugar levels when you had GDM? After having placenta deterioration with my first baby, it was not something I was interested in or would want to risk.
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 the 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 as we all had the same condition. How wrong was I?! It was obvious that we had so many unanswered questions about things and so that’s when I started researching gestational diabetes in much more detail.
At the time I worked for the University of Cambridge, and also have a husband who is a Senior Lecturer in Microbiology who also worked at the University. This meant that I was in a fortunate position as I had access to all evidence-based research publications which enabled me to read up on research related to gestational diabetes.
I learned a lot through the growing member’s lived experiences, plus all the research I was doing within published studies. 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 (something I too had first-hand experience of).
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.
In my second pregnancy , I was diagnosed with GDM at 10 weeks in Cambridgeshire. But when I moved from Cambridge to East Yorkshire I was told I could now use completely different testing targets (I went from having test targets of <5.0mmol/L fasting and <7.0mmol/L one-hour postprandially in Cambridge, to 4.0-6.0mmol/L fasting and <8.0mmolL one-hour postprandially in Hull).
I couldn’t understand why such lower levels were required in Cambridge (lower than the NICE recommended targets) and such higher targets were acceptable in Hull (higher than the NICE recommended targets). What was the point in having National guidelines if things could vary so much with the same condition and in the same person?!
Not only were monitoring targets dramatically different, but I also found out that diagnostic targets were too! It really was a postcode lottery.
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 overrun with posts regarding all things new baby. This is when the ‘Life After GD UK‘ support group [now called GD UK Off Topic Chat] was born. This is a group for any of our GD Mums that have had their baby/babies but still wanted to catch up, and discuss post-birth diabetes testing and all things new baby. More recently we have opened this to our pregnant members for an 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 was a taboo condition brought on by eating too many sweets or cakes.
One of the big issues we saw being posted in the 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 private group could find out a bit more about gestational diabetes.
The Gestational Diabetes UK Facebook support group has now seen well over 21,000 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 GDM, 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.
The Gestational Diabetes UK® website
Reaching even further, turning this into a full-time job
Having received different care, given test times and targets in my own pregnancies, and seeing the differences across the UK and Ireland in GDM care, I knew that there needed to be a better resource for women with gestational diabetes.
Many of the group members felt 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.
In 2015, I chose to launch a website instead of writing a book so that I could constantly update and refresh the information, keeping on top of research and data.
The website has been a huge learning curve and gamble, especially as I have very little computing skills or knowledge, but with the help of YouTube clips and lots of searching online, I managed to create a professional website and valuable resource.
Optional Recipe Subscription to fund the website and my work
My Facebook group members asked me for a 7-day meal plan and recipes to go alongside my knowledge of a GD diet that works. And as an avid home baker who enjoys cooking from scratch, I developed quite a few reliable and enjoyable recipes.
It is and was always important to me, that the Gestational Diabetes UK website is a professional and reliable resource that can be used by a majority, both mothers with gestational diabetes and medical professionals caring for women with GDM; not just another blog. I also didn’t want to ruin the website with annoying pop-ups, external advertising, or affiliate links, but I did need a way to cover the out of pocket expenses and so I decided to offer an optional membership for additional recipes and 7-day meal plans for those that wanted to sign up.
I offer 2 Recipe Subscription options, Bronze and Silver. This optional subscription service helps pay for the running costs of the website and a small wage for myself as a stay-at-home mother so that I can continue with my passion for researching and helping mothers with gestational diabetes. It also means with only extra convenience being offered in the paid subscription areas, all the required and needed advice remains free for all to access and use.
Other social networks
Along with the website, I also launched more social media accounts to reach those that may not find GD UK on Facebook or online, each with its own benefits and uses:
Instagram – @gestational_diabetes_uk daily Instagram posts and stories aimed at supporting mothers with GDM; recipes, food ideas, hints, tips, motivational posts and trying to raise awareness of GDM. I love Instagram as I enjoy creating infographics and photography
Twitter – @GDUKMums tweets to raise awareness, share newly published relevant research, and try to challenge some of the issues those with GDM face. The Twitter account is predominantly for reaching other professionals, rather than mothers with GDM
Pinterest – @GDUKMums a collection of boards to help women with gestational diabetes
YouTube – longer video clips to demonstrate helpful things eg. testing blood glucose levels and colostrum harvesting
LinkedIn – a place for professionals to reach out to me
Collaborating with researchers and Universities
Over the years, I have been involved in recruiting and giving feedback on many research studies for many Universities across the UK and Northern Ireland: Belfast, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, and Kings College London (with 3 different academics specialising in different areas), Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Stirling and Ulster.
I have been particularly proud to work with Dr Claire Wilson, a Psychiatry Specialist Registrar and Clinical Researcher at Kings College London on a cartoon leaflet given to women diagnosed with GDM and more recently as part of the research project creating an amazing short film about gestational diabetes diagnosis (Please see the full article, Gestational Diabetes: One Prick At A Time).
Gestational Diabetes UK is recognised and used as a reliable resource by others
I have worked with the media such as radio stations, BBC News, ITV News, Channel 4 and Channel 5 News when articles have been launched on gestational diabetes and with Sam Feltham at the Public Health Collaboration.
I have also been privileged to work with Tommy’s midwives, helping to review their information on gestational diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes UK is mentioned multiple times in the AIMS book, Gestational Diabetes, written by Deborah Hughes and many birth stories online recommend the website for support when sharing their stories, such as this one in Mother & Baby. And on Hannah Fearn’s article in the Independent on having GDM during the lockdown, ‘I’m pregnant in lockdown, and it’s not only alcohol that’s off the menu – cake, chips or pasta could harm my baby’ [Hannah was a GD UK member]. I also offered support and advice to Charlotte Dawson during her GD pregnancy via Instagram.
My guest posts
I have written a large feature article for My BABA about gestational diabetes, from diagnosis to birth and beyond.
I have also written a guest post for LivLife Bread
Recognition from diabetes medical professionals within the NHS
The Gestational Diabetes UK website was listed as web-based support that users felt was helpful, in an article, Gestational Diabetes: A Practical Guide, published in the Journal of Diabetes Medicine, by Paru King, the Consultant Physician at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Paru King has been a Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology in Derby since 2000. Her clinical interests include diabetes and pregnancy and also integrated care. She is the physician lead for diabetes and obstetrics service and has clinically led and project managed the award-winning PROCEED project, the first integrated service for preconception care.
The website hits the Orange Maternity Notes!
It is amazing to see that Gestational Diabetes UK is now listed on page 1 of the NHS Orange Diabetes in pregnancy maternity notes under Support Groups / Additional Information (Version 18.1 – June 2018)
I have a growing number of hospitals advocating the Gestational Diabetes UK website and Facebook support group to their patients and I hope to improve working relationships and see more professionals come on board soon! I have created posters/flyers that are now used and displayed in many clinics across the country. Please feel free to download a copy to use if you wish: Download GD UK Flyer
In Derby and many NHS Trusts, the Gestational Diabetes UK website and/or Facebook support group is given as a web-based support aid to all women diagnosed with gestational diabetes, actively encouraging them to use the information and support provided.
Some hospitals give out GD UK flyers to patients, others have the website written down as a resource link and others inform women by word of mouth.
Hospitals that are currently supporting the use of Gestational Diabetes UK [according to members of our Facebook group] are:
- Princess Royal Hospital, Telford (they give out the GD UK flyer to all newly diagnosed mothers)
|Basildon University Hospital, Essex|
|Chesterfield Royal Hospital|
|Conquest Hospital, Hastings, East Sussex|
|Derriford Hospital, Plymouth|
|Diana Princess of Wales Hospital, Lincolnshire|
|Doncaster Royal Infirmary, South Yorkshire|
|Furness General Hospital, Cumbria|
|Huddersfield Royal Infirmary|
|Ipswich Hospital, Suffolk|
|John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford|
|Kent & Canterbury Hospital|
|Kettering General Hospital, Northamptonshire|
|King George & Queens Hospitals, Romford, East London|
|Kingston Hospital, Surrey, South West London|
|Lister Hospital, Stevenage, Hertfordshire|
|Princess Royal Hospital, Sussex|
|Princess Royal Hospital, Telford|
|Queens Hospital, Essex|
|Rotherham General Hospital, South Yorkshire|
|Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske|
|Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford|
|Royal United Hospital, Bath|
|Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle|
|Southend University Hospital, Essex|
|Southmead Hospital, Bristol|
|St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, West Sussex|
|Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, Manchester|
|Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire|
|Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Kent|
|Watford General Hospital, Hertfordshire|
|West Cornwall Hospital, Penzance|
|West Middlesex University Hospital, Isleworth (West London)|
|West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk|
|Worcestershire Royal Hospital|
|Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend South Wales|
|Gilbert Bain Hospital, Shetland, Scotland|
|Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, Northern Ireland|
|Ulster Hospital, Belfast, Northern Ireland|
Republic of Ireland:
|Wexford General Hospital, Republic of Ireland|
There are even more hospitals that recommend and have published articles advocating the Gestational Diabetes UK colostrum harvesting page as a resource for information.
If you would like to work with me, then please get in touch!
I also have to say a HUGE 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 and to my three amazing boys! xxx