Just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes?
If you’ve just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes you may be feeling shocked, upset, overwhelmed, guilty, distressed, in denial, or asking “why me?”. It can be a daunting and very confusing time. What may have been the perfect pregnancy could feel completely shattered. Or additional complications to an already difficult pregnancy may feel like the last straw for you.
You may be completely unaware of gestational diabetes. You might have stopped eating in fear of causing high blood sugar levels, consequently harming your baby.
Perhaps you are worried this could mean a pregnancy which is filled with additional hospital appointments. Could it mean medication and insulin injections? More medical intervention? Maybe you’re worried you will not be able to have the pregnancy and birth you hoped for.
You could be worrying that you will now be diabetic for the rest of your life.
Feeling very emotional and spending days crying through fear of the unknown. Or perhaps you’ve read or heard too many horror stories linked to gestational diabetes.
I aim to share with you some information based on frequently asked questions in our gestational diabetes Facebook support group.
This information is written by myself as a mother who has been exactly where you are right now. I’ve experienced 3 gestational diabetes pregnancies and have been researching gestational diabetes for a few years now. I have helped and supported thousands of ladies over the past few years. You’re not alone…
Let it sink in but try not to panic
Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes is a BIG deal for most mothers. You may have no idea what it means, just struck with fear over the consequences. Your head may be racing with a million questions, but put the kettle on and sit down. Let it sink in, join our support group if you wish and then when you feel ready, you can read more.
Don’t consult Dr Google!
What do we usually do when we need to know more about something? We consult Dr Google for advice! Beware if you do this. The first things that are going to jump out at you can do more damage than good. Remember that people love to share horror stories and bad things. It’s harder to find the facts, detail and positive outcomes.
With a bit of luck, if you did Google, you may have landed here. I try to give you as much information, support and evidence as possible for you to see a truthful account of what being diagnosed with gestational diabetes actually means.
Be kind to yourself
After the initial shock and fear, tends to come feelings of guilt, blame and beating yourself up. I need to make something clear here… IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!
There are certain factors which can make you at higher risk of getting gestational diabetes, but ALL women have increased insulin resistance in pregnancy. This is due to the hormones released from the placenta. Those who are not diabetic are able to increase insulin production sufficiently enough. Those who cannot increase insulin production enough, or cannot use the insulin that is there effectively enough, are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
So no, that chocolate bar, or piece of cake you ate last week, or that craving for orange juice you’ve been drowning in since you fell pregnant is not the reason you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
If you are feeling guilt or shame, ask yourself if would you beat yourself up if you were diagnosed with any other condition. Or are you blaming yourself for having diabetes because of a stigma and negative things that are related to diabetes diagnosis? Have you been led to believe it’s your fault through poor knowledge and bad media coverage, or something that someone has said to you? If so, then it’s time to start learning…
Lack of awareness and knowledge
Leading on from my last point… There are many stigmas attached to diabetes. Many people do not know about gestational diabetes, have never heard of it, or wrongly make assumptions about it.
Gestational diabetes is diabetes in pregnancy, it is driven by the placenta and so once the baby and placenta have been delivered you are no longer classed as diabetic.
That said, gestational diabetes can be the flag for detecting pre-existing diabetes. It also means that you have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. For this reason, we are screened for diabetes following birth and then annually checked.
Gestational diabetes is not Type 1, Type 2, or MODY, it is diabetes during pregnancy only. It is not the same as other types of diabetes. Driven by hormones from the placenta and consequences to a growing baby, make gestational diabetes very different.
Knowledge is power
Once you’ve given yourself some time to digest the fact that you’ve been diagnosed, it is time to start to learn a bit more. The more you learn, the greater your knowledge will be and the better you will be able to face gestational diabetes and take control.
Information out there about every aspect of gestational diabetes is conflicting. If researching gestational diabetes, focus on sourcing information from reliable sources that can back up the information with evidence-based research.
The information provided here on Gestational Diabetes UK has come from researching medical publications and real-life, first-hand experiences of GD mothers. My Facebook team and I aim to share as much information, support, hints and tips on as many gestational diabetes topics as possible. However, we are not medical professionals and cannot offer medical advice. Any information given on gestational diabetes should complement the care given by your medical professionals.
What happens next?
After being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will be asked to attend a clinic appointment at your hospital, but the time of this appointment can be anywhere from the next day to weeks away.
What happens in this appointment can vary in each hospital, but the majority will provide you with your home testing blood glucose monitor, show you how to use it, provide you with your testing targets and give you information and advice about gestational diabetes. Many will give dietary advice too. Unfortunately, this is one area where many mothers really struggle and where our dietary advice can help.
For some real-life experiences of clinic appointments, lists of possible professionals you may meet and a list of questions you may want to ask, our clinic appointments page should be helpful.
What does it mean for your pregnancy?
Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes means that you will need to adapt the diet you follow in order to reduce the amount of sugar (glucose) you eat or drink and to keep your blood sugar levels lower. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as cutting out sugary or sweet things. Carbohydrates turn into sugar in the bloodstream and so it is the carbohydrates that also need reducing and changing too. But we can help you a lot with some great dietary advice, so please don’t worry.
You will need to test your blood sugar levels at home, at certain times each day and record the results.
You may be asked to attend the hospital for more clinic appointments and additional growth scans. This is because monitoring both you and your baby with gestational diabetes is important. It may feel like your pregnancy has become more medicalised. Many teams are happy to discuss things over the telephone. Also, depending on how well your blood sugar levels are managed, you may not need to attend many additional appointments.
If you have any problems or concerns over attending hospital appointments then you should discuss these with your team. Communication is key.
If you feel that your diagnosis is wrong then it is best to discuss this with your healthcare professionals. Many mothers who pass the GTT [glucose tolerance test] with borderline test results may not see an impact until further into their pregnancy when insulin resistance worsens.
What does it mean for your baby?
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes this is good for your baby as it means that your blood sugar levels are monitored and the growth of your baby will be checked more often than what is routinely offered in pregnancy.
Good control of blood sugar levels means that any risks and complications associated with gestational diabetes are significantly reduced.
If gestational diabetes is not diagnosed or blood sugar levels are not well controlled, the baby will be exposed to excessive amounts of glucose from the mother’s bloodstream which may lead to complications.
Nobody wants to be diagnosed with a condition like gestational diabetes. But, having it diagnosed and monitored is much better than the consequences of having it and not being diagnosed.
How bad do I have it?
One thing that often plays on people’s minds is how bad their gestational diabetes is. Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to this. Your GTT results do not necessarily show or prove you have a mild or severe case of gestational diabetes. Insulin resistance can vary depending on many factors.
Gestational diabetes is a progressive condition which worsens throughout the pregnancy. This means you could have borderline results, yet suffer high insulin resistance as the pregnancy goes on. Or it could mean that you get high GTT results, yet are able to make adjustments and control with diet alone.
Does gestational diabetes mean I’m going to have a big baby?
As soon as you learn about gestational diabetes, you will see that the first thing that comes up is that GD causes big babies.
Excess glucose in the mother’s bloodstream passes through to the baby. This causes the baby to increase his/her own insulin production. With insulin being a growth hormone, it can cause the baby to grow big for gestational age.
If gestational diabetes is diagnosed and managed (blood sugar levels monitored, dietary changes made and medication or insulin taken if needed as necessary), then the chances of having a big baby are greatly reduced.
Therefore, many mothers with GD do not have big babies. Also, those that have had previous big babies, often have much smaller ones following a gestational diabetes pregnancy.
Don’t stop eating, but make dietary changes today
Many mothers may avoid eating when they are first diagnosed with gestational diabetes as they are unsure or too scared about what to eat.
This can actually have a detrimental effect on blood sugar levels. If a meal or snack is missed, then blood sugar levels can drop low. When this happens the liver releases stored glucose into the bloodstream to give energy and blood sugar levels spike high.
There’s no need to wait until you see your hospital or dietitian, you can make changes today with our dietary advice, which will be hugely beneficial.
Will I be able to eat chocolate or sweet things?
Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes means adapting to a diet which will help lower and stabilise blood sugar levels.
It is advisable to cut most sweet or sugary foods and drinks from your diet but you will still be able to eat some sweet treats. (You just have to learn which things are safer to try).
It may be different to what you are used to, but we share lots of ideas with you to help. For example, you can still eat chocolate but it should certain types, in small amounts and eaten with other specific foods to help stop the glucose from it raising your blood sugar levels too high.
Will I have to inject insulin?
Insulin is only used when diet and medication such as Metformin do not lower blood sugar levels to a low enough range. Occasionally, some mothers may be advised to start insulin from diagnosis, but this is not common. Some reasons for this are:
- due to extremely high GTT results
- extreme excessive growth of the baby
- very late diagnosis
If the time comes when you need to start medication for gestational diabetes, then we will share lots of information and support around this. My advice is to take one step at a time, and cross that bridge IF and WHEN you need to.
Will I have to be induced?
NICE guidance recommends IOL (induction of labour) at 40+6 weeks unless there are maternal or fetal complications, but each trust and hospital will have their own guidelines as to when they recommend delivery for your baby, based on evidence and your own pregnancy journey.
It is each mother’s right to choose whether to accept induction or not if it is advised. We provide more detailed information on induction including Scottish (SIGN) guidelines and home and water births.
Research for yourself and ask questions at your appointments with your team. Your healthcare professionals are there to support you throughout your pregnancy and birth.
Many experienced healthcare professionals can be more than happy to use their expertise when helping to make decisions and plans over your birth.
Will I have to have a Caesarean section because I have gestational diabetes?
No, gestational diabetes diagnosis itself is not a reason to be advised to have a caesarean section.
There is an increased risk of Caesarean sections linked to gestational diabetes, but this is in undiagnosed or uncontrolled cases.
Caesarean sections are only advised in patients where there is concern vaginal birth could cause further complications.
Does it mean I won’t be able to have a VBAC?
No, NICE guidance states:
1.4.6 Diabetes should not in itself be considered a contraindication to attempting vaginal birth after a previous caesarean section. 
If you are advised to have an induction, you may find that certain methods are recommended over others for planned VBAC inductions.
It’s important to have a good support network around you following diagnosis as at times things can be tough going.
Our support page for family and friends is a great page to share with those who you need support from. The page has been designed to be shared to help others learn and understand what you may be going through. It explains gestational diabetes in brief detail and has a comparison to other types of diabetes.
Our Facebook support group is a private group for mothers only who have gestational diabetes.