Approximately 2% of pregnant women develop diabetes during their pregnancy. The diabetes disappears after the baby is born in more than 9 out of 10 of these women. This type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes and is usually discovered around the 30th week of your pregnancy during a routine blood test.
Diabetes is caused by your body not producing enough insuling (a hormone) to keep your blood sugar levels in the normal range. As a result your blood sugar level rises. This can cause problems for you and, more especially, for your baby.
Why have I got gestational diabetes?
During pregnancy your body produces hormones that raise your blood sugar level, ie they have the opposite effect to insulin. This means you need more insulin to bring your blood sugar level to normal but, at this important time, you are not producing quite enough insulin yourself. Gestational diabetes is more common in women who are overweight. These women already produce extra insulin because their bodies do not use it so efficiently and they have trouble coping with the extra insulin demands of pregnancy.
Other risk factors for developing gestational diabetes are
- Gestational diabetes in your last pregnancy
- Family history of diabetes
- A large baby from your last pregnancy
- An unexplained stillbirth
- Being over 25 years old
- Previous difficult pregnancies and/or deliveries
- Frequent urinary infections
What do I have to do now?
It is important that you keep your blood sugar levels as well controlled as possible at this time.
High blood sugar levels pass across your placenta to your baby. This makes your baby produce more insulin. Insulin encourages growth so your baby may become very large which may mean a difficult birth. You will be given help from a diabetes care team in your hospital. You will learn from a diabetes specialist nurse how to test your blood sugar levels at home and be able to talk about a food plan with a dietician.
What will I have to eat?
You may need to change your diet to
- Keep your blood sugar as well controlled as possible.
- Avoid gaining too much weight. The acceptable weight gain during pregnancy is 10-12 kg. Pregnancy is not a time to try and lower weight, however.
Your blood sugar levels are affected by the type and amount of food you eat and by when you eat your food. Your dietician can tell you if you need to add extra calcium or iron to your diet because of your pregnancy.
- Avoid sugar and sweet foods.
- Choose high fibre starchy foods (wholemeal bread and cereals, brown rice and pasta).
- Eat moderate amounts of protein foods.
- Reduce the amount of fat you eat.
- Eat at regular times.
What else do I need to know?
Most women with gestational diabetes do not need insulin injections but occasionally they may be necessary. If this is the case your diabetes care team can give you all the help you need.
If you smoke, stop immediately.
Because you have gestational diabetes, you will have more antenatal appointments with a team that specialise in pregnancy an diabetes to keep close checks on you and your baby. Your doctor will look at how well your diabetes is controlled and at the size and well being of your baby to help decide the time for your delivery. The aim will be to have a normal delivery but your baby will have to be born in hospital. You can breast feed your baby if you want to.
You can expect to have a healthy baby and that your diabetes will finish when your baby is born. However, it is likely that your diabetes will return with another pregnancy and there is a chance that you will develop diabetes when you are older. Important things you can do after your baby is born to reduce yur chances of developing diabetes in the future are to keep to a healthy diet and keep your weight down to the ideal weight for your height.
There is a lot of information to take in but you do not have to learn it all at once. Do feel that you can ask your diabetes or obstetric team any questions you have at any time during your pregnancy.