What is gestational diabetes?

I would say that my pregnancy was relatively trouble free. Well that was up until I was around 35 weeks pregnant. At one of my regular midwife appointments, she mentioned that I was measuring smaller than expected so sent me for a scan to check everything was okay.

I was really surprised when the sonographer said that I was measuring two weeks ahead of my date so actually I was having a big baby. They decided to give me a gestational diabetes blood test to rule it out because this can cause big babies. I wasn't concerned at all about the blood test because I didn't have any symptoms and I didn't fit the profile of a high risk person so you could have blown me over with a feather when the results came back as positive. What? How? Why?

Guilt. Oh my goodness. The guilt I felt when I was diagnosed with GD was incredible. What had I done wrong? Had I eat too much sugar during my pregnancy? It was such a worrying and scary time. It is probably the first time that I felt any serious concerns about my baby.

An appointment was made to see the diabetic nurse a few days later where I picked up my testing kits and food diary. It was all very overwhelming. I was 36 weeks pregnant and just about to start my maternity leave, thinking I would have a few weeks to relax and enjoy my final few weeks before Lottie arrived but that was not the case.

I must confess, I did not know the first thing about diabetes. So as you can imagine, I googled everything there was to know about GD, joined facebook groups, asked questions, read other people's experiences and recommendations. I very quickly realised that I was actually really really lucky to be diagnosed because going full term with GD can be very dangerous for both mother and baby.

So the final few weeks of my pregnancy was finger pricking, recording blood levels, food diaries (strawberries spiked my blood sugar levels like crazy) and hospital appointments, where it was decided that I was to be induced at 38 weeks.

As I only had a few weeks to manage my GD, I didn't go on any medication which I was glad of and it made me even more determined to manage it through food alone. I did lose 5lb from being diagnosed to giving birth which I was slightly concerned about but fortunately Lottie arrived before I had the chance to lose any more weight. The difference in my weight from getting pregnant to giving birth was 11lb and Lottie arrived 10 days early and weighing a healthy 7 lb 13oz (so not a big baby after all).

It was a scary few weeks for me but luckily it was only a few weeks. Both Lottie and I were tested in hospital to make sure neither of us had diabetes and we both came back negative. I have to get tested every year just to keep a check on my blood sugar levels because I am at a higher risk of developing diabetes in later life but so far so good.

What causes gestational diabetes?

So I am no health expert but in very simple terms, your placenta makes hormones that cause glucose to build up in your blood. Usually, your pancreas can send out enough insulin to handle it. But if your body can't make enough insulin or stops using insulin like it should, your blood sugar levels rise, and you get gestational diabetes.

What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

In some cases, like my own, I did not display any symptoms of gestational diabetes but some symptoms are

  • Increased thirst

  • Needing to wee more (don't we all need to do that especially in later stages of pregnancy)

  • Dry mouth

  • Tiredness (again, very normal in pregnancy)

Who is more at risk of gestational diabetes?

  • Having body mass index (BMI) of over 30

  • If you have previously had a baby over 10lb

  • If you have had gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies

  • One of your parents or siblings has diabetes

  • If you are of South Asian, black, African Caribbean or middle eastern origin.

If you fall into any of the categories above, you will have a routine blood test at around 24-28 weeks to check for gestational diabetes.

Risks of gestational diabetes?

Living with gestational diabetes can cause serious risks both to you and your unborn baby such as

  • Risk of having a larger baby which can cause complications during childbirth. This is why I was induced, to make sure Lottie didn't get too big.

  • Polyhydramnios - too much amniotic fluid causing early labour or complications during delivery.

  • Premature birth - giving birth before 37 weeks

  • Preeclampsia - dangerously high blood pressure

  • Jaundice - your baby may have jaundice which may need treatment

  • Stillbirth - this is quite rare but it is a risk

My experience with GD was fairly positive, compared to others and relatively short lived. There was a lot of support around and I particularly found the Gestational Diabetes UK Facebook group really helpful. For lots more information about gestational diabetes head over to the Safer Pregnancy website which has lots of information about GD and also some general advice about keeping safe during your pregnancy.

I am more than happy to chat to anyone about GD so please just get in touch.

Saturday 14th November is World Diabetes Day 2020. For more information on diabetes head over to Diabetes UK where you will find lots of information and support.

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