Abby’s story is heartbreaking, but she has kindly shared her story to help raise awareness of gestational diabetes. Due to Abby not being screened for gestational diabetes with a glucose tolerance test (GTT) or by monitoring blood sugar levels, it meant that she had a gestational diabetes stillbirth.
Trigger warning! This story may upset those reading…
Just a normal pregnancy
After 2 previous miscarriages, when Abby, aged 27, fell pregnant in July 2009 she wanted to do what she could for this pregnancy to go smoothly.
Abby knew that you could get cravings in pregnancy and so when she craved sweet things she reached for fresh fruit and fruit juices as a healthier option to the sugar cravings.
Abby was an energetic person, previously working as a holiday rep that would be walking and swimming regularly, but in the pregnancy she craved carbs and sugary drinks. Eating carb-heavy meals like pasta and feeling lethargic, Abby would fall asleep after eating into deep but restless, unsettled sleep.
At 5 months into the pregnancy Abby who was 5ft 2in had put on 6st, going from being a size 10 and 10st, to 16st in weight. Concerned over the weight she had gained and her cravings, she asked her midwife if this was normal, only to be told that all pregnant women gain weight and some get cravings.
At the 20 week anomaly scan, Abby found out that she was expecting a little boy who they decided to name Harrison.
Something didn’t feel right
Still concerned over her weight, cravings, thirst and feelings of tiredness and lethargy, Abby raised concerns with her midwife at her next two appointments and also asked a second opinion from another midwife. Once again she was reassured that everything was ‘normal’ for pregnancy.
Abby had a urine dip test taken which showed glucose in her urine, but the midwife told her that it was likely from a sugary drink she had drunk earlier.
Abby was asked if there was a history of diabetes in her family during routine booking appointments and informed them that her Grandfather was diabetic, but no further action was taken.
Abby didn’t realise at the time that many of these things are risks for gestational diabetes and her midwives dismissed any of her concerns.
By 38 weeks Abby had gone from being a size 10 to a size 24.
10 days from her due date, Abby had her ‘show’ and reading certain things could help speed up labour went out out and bought a curry and pineapple in the hopes of speeding up the labour and birth. To start with Abby believed that she was starting to have contractions, but when they stopped she went to bed and slept well, getting an unusually restful night’s sleep compared to what it had been like during the rest of the pregnancy.
When waking in the morning, feeling much better and energetic than she had in a long time she was suspicious that something wasn’t right so her friend took Abby to her hospital (Milton Keynes Hospital) to get checked out.
Abby was given an ultrasound. The sonographer left the room to call a doctor, who returned, turned the screen away from Abby and informed her that there was no heartbeat. Baby Harrison had died in the womb.
Abby was induced to give birth to her son which after five days of the induction failing, Harrison was born via caesarean section weighing 10lb 1oz, 18th April 2010.
Abby overheard midwives talking of the possibility that she had suffered from gestational diabetes, something she had never heard of. The postmortem was inconclusive as Harrison had been inside the womb for five days after he had died.
After researching gestational diabetes it was clear for Abby to see that many symptoms had been dismissed and she should have been offered a screening test for gestational diabetes. Had her care been different, then Harrison would have lived.
In September 2011 Abby fell pregnant again, but this time knowing the signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes, was tested at 20 weeks, coming back as positive. Determined to try to control the condition and losing trust in the medical professionals, Abby lived on a diet of chicken, broccoli and spinach. Abby gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Ruby in April 2012, weighing 7lb 8oz.
In July 2014, after a legal battle over 4 years, Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust admitted a breach of duty in relation to the care Abby had received with Harrison, and accepted that if the appropriate tests for gestational diabetes had been carried out Harrison would have lived.
Milton Keynes Hospital now screen all pregnant women at 20 weeks gestation for gestational diabetes, but the majority of hospitals and Trusts in the UK and Ireland do not, only offering screening to those with higher risk factors for gestational diabetes.
Thank you to Abby for letting us share your story.
If you would like to read more details and a personal account of Abby’s story, please take a look at the following articles: ‘Gestational diabetes killed my unborn son’, ‘I lost my unborn baby after docs mistook my diabetes for pregnancy cravings’, Gestational diabetes killed my unborn son
Charly’s story – Gestational diabetes stillbirth
Charly got in contact with us after reading Abby’s story and following our page on Facebook and wanted to share her story of a gestational diabetes stillbirth to help raise awareness too…
I reached 40 weeks but throughout my pregnancy signs of GD were brushed off by my midwives. At 32 weeks I had sugar in my urine and was told I was overweight. But apparently I needed to have sugar twice in my urine before further tests were done.
The next week there was no sugar in my urine so no further tests were done. Later the consultant told me testing urine is not fool proof because even a person with Type 2 diabetes won’t necessarily have sugar in their urine. The only reliable test is the blood test.
So after complaining about sugar cravings, vision becoming worse, tiredness and a history of both Diabetes, stillborn and being part Indian the midwives and triage staff did nothing to check. I visited Triage at Stoke Mandeville hospital twice in the last week of pregnancy. They just tested urine and heart beat and sent me away.
At 40 weeks baby was alive at morning check up with midwife. She attempted a stretch and sweep but babies head was in the way of my cervix. The agony of that forceful procedure was awful.
I went home and felt awful, had a sandwich and a nap. Awoke in the afternoon to contractions. By 5pm I was ringing hospital. But they train you to not come in. I was bleeding and they told me it was my mucous plug.
After 3 phones calls I was invited to High Wycombe Hospital, to wait at their – now closed – midwife run unit. But no heart beat was found. So by ambulance I was sent to Stoke Mandeville Hospital. My partner followed by car. But on arrival I was taken to a room where a consultant told me my baby was dead. Without my partner there.
24 hours later I have birth to Martha. An 8 pound girl. Tests showed I had gestational diabetes. My blood sugar levels were 51. But they didn’t tell me this until 10 weeks later when we saw the consultant who told us, had they known they would have induced me at 38 weeks.
I took it further by contacting a lawyers in Oxford who took on case. But after 2 years the Obstetrician they use examined my medical evidence and his response was that gestational diabetes can not kill a baby. The lawyers rejected to take the case further. That hurt, because at every step I feel a cold clinical brick wall rejection.
I was 38 at booking, 39 when baby was born. So it’s harder to get pregnant again. What I needed was acknowledgement that these staff had let me down.
Losing Martha Rose had been numbing. The autopsy results showed she was developed normally, but there had been lack of oxygen. The blood vessels that make up the placenta had not been supplying enough oxygen.
Stoke Mandeville have since sent midwives on courses about gestational diabetes. A friend heard my story on Facebook and went and got checked out. She discovered she had GD and following a healthy diet she had a healthy baby girl.
Ironically, I teach cookery to kids. So throughout my pregnancy, I was eating healthy, but I did give in to sugar cravings. Now I know what I know about carbs and sugars I would approach pregnancy differently.
I also have another story which share’s the devastating consequences of undiagnosed gestational diabetes, which I shared to raise awareness for 2018 diabetes week. You can read Leanne’s story here.
New research shows how important gestational diabetes diagnosis is
Without screening, women ‘at risk’ of GDM (as per NICE criteria) experienced 47% greater risk of late stillbirth. For those who were screened, this excess was essentially eliminated. Similarly, without GDM diagnosis, women with raised FPG experienced a four‐fold greater risk of late stillbirth. For those who were diagnosed, this excess was no longer apparent. Since a third of women with an FPG ≥ 5.6 mmol/l did not receive a GDM diagnosis – partly due to the change in NICE guidance in 2015 – the overall risk of late stillbirth was still over twice as great in women with a raised FPG.1
Gestational diabetes stillbirth CAN be prevented
Gestational diabetes stillbirth is a rare and unnecessary complication of gestational diabetes. It can be prevented by screening for gestational diabetes during pregnancy with a GTT (glucose tolerance test), then monitoring and controlling blood sugar levels.
Having gestational diabetes means that there are additional risks of complications but if blood sugar levels are lowered and stabilised, risk of complications are greatly reduced.
Raising awareness of gestational diabetes
Abby and Charly are not alone in not knowing about gestational diabetes, in fact the majority of ladies who get diagnosed have not heard of gestational diabetes and know very little about the condition.
Gestational diabetes affects 5% of UK pregnancies (and this figure is rising) and so raising awareness of the condition is very important.
Gestational diabetes stillbirth is rare and usually only seen in undiagnosed cases. Gestational diabetes can also cause many other complications. You can read more on these complications on this page.
We have shared some other real life stories of those that have suffered complications due to gestational diabetes. You can read these in the links below:-
Sophie’s story – shoulder dystocia
Ceira’s story – undignaosed versus diagnosed gestational diabetes
Raeesa’s story – late GD diagnosis
Help us raise awareness and stop gestational diabetes stillbirth!
Gestational diabetes stillbirth is so unnecessary when there are ways of testing and controlling the condition. With the majority of UK and Ireland hospitals only screening higher risk women for gestational diabetes, we would like to try raise the awareness of this condition.
WE WANT TO SEE ALL PREGNANT WOMEN SCREENED FOR GESTATIONAL DIABETES AND AT RISK GROUPS SCREENED EARLIER
Too many ladies have to be fight to be diagnosed and this is just not right.
Symptoms of gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes can be symptomless, or like Abby experienced, some of the symptoms may be put down as typical pregnancy type symptoms.
It is very common for no symptoms to be present and this is why many ladies feel that they can’t possibly have gestational diabetes after receiving a positive result and struggle to come to terms with the diagnosis.
Some women may experience some symptoms such as:
- Blurred vision
- Feeling thirsty
- Feeling shaky or unsteady
- Nauseous when needing to eat
- Urinating more frequently
- Recurrent infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) and thrush
You will notice that many of these symptoms are common during a normal pregnancy and so it is hard to determine if they are due to gestational diabetes or just pregnancy itself until a glucose tolerance test is performed.
If you have any of the above symptoms you should enquire about being tested for gestational diabetes.
Some women have a higher risk of getting gestational diabetes than others
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
None of the risk factors for gestational diabetes?
One big misconception that we would like to raise awareness over, is that ANYONE can get gestational diabetes, not just those who have higher risk factors which are listed above.
We have seen plenty of women in our Facebook support group, Gestational Diabetes UK Mums, with none of the above risk factors develop gestational diabetes.
In Gestational Diabetes UK Mums, we have had many ladies who lead very fit, healthy and active lifestyles, including marathon runners, yoga teachers, who have been used to low fat, healthy and clean eating diets.
Just because you have none of the risk factors does not mean that you are exempt from getting gestational diabetes – GD does not discriminate!
Fighting to get diagnosed?
Sadly, too often we see ladies join our support group who are fighting and battling to be listened to and are concerned that they have gestational diabetes.
If you find yourself in a situation where your concerns are being dismissed and you feel your midwife, GP or other health care provider is not listening to you, refusing to test you for GD, insisting you wait until a certain gestation before testing you, or because you have passed a GTT already they are refusing any further tests, then please come and join our support group for help with this.
We recommend that you start monitoring your blood sugar levels with a blood glucose monitor, using the NICE guidelines (shown in the image) as a basis and then presenting the results to your MW or GP. If they do not act on high monitoring levels, then we recommend you getting in touch with your local hospital’s diabetes team directly.
You may not be able to get a blood glucose monitor from you MW or GP and so you may wish to purchase one from a Pharmacy. Bear in mind when purchasing a monitor that the test strips used in monitors can be very expensive, so look for a monitor that has cheaper consumables, as opposed to the cheapest monitor which may charge much higher amounts for the test strips. If the cost is a problem for you, then you could join our Facebook group and get a monitor and some strips from a mother that has had her baby and no longer requires her monitor (we have a file in our group for this purpose).
Find out more…
To find out more about how gestational diabetes is diagnosed in the UK and Ireland and some more information about what gestational diabetes is, please take a look at this page.
- 1.Stacey T, Tennant P, McCowan L, et al. Gestational diabetes and the risk of late stillbirth: a case–control study from England, UK. BJOG: Int J Obstet Gy. Published online March 19, 2019. doi:10.1111/1471-0528.15659