Diabetes in pregnancy

What is gestational diabetes?

  • Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that you can get when you are pregnant.
  • Gestational diabetes is sometimes called GDM by health workers.
  • Gestational diabetes is when you have high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy.

What causes gestational diabetes?

When you eat or drink, your body breaks down carbohydrate foods into glucose (sugar), which then goes into your blood.

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Your muscle cells need glucose to give your body energy to work, like how a car needs petrol to run.

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Your pancreas makes insulin, which also goes into your blood. You need insulin to help the glucose move from your blood and into your muscles and cells.

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Insulin acts like a key to unlock your muscles and cells and let the glucose in to be used for energy.

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Your body knows when you have eaten and have glucose in your blood and it uses insulin to keep your blood glucose level balanced.

When you are pregnant your body makes hormones that help your baby grow. These normal pregnancy hormones block insulin from working properly, so your insulin keys can’t open as many doors.

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This means you need to make more insulin when you are pregnant.

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Some women can’t make enough insulin. If you can’t make enough insulin the glucose builds up in your blood and you have gestational diabetes.

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All women should be tested for gestational diabetes when they get pregnant, and then again at 24 weeks pregnant.

If you don’t manage your gestational diabetes it can cause health problems for your baby, including:

  • baby growing bigger than normal
  • baby being born to early
  • baby’s blood glucose levels to be too low at birth
  • baby having trouble feeding and breathing
  • baby having jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)

Your baby will not be born with diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can cause health problems for you too, including:

  • high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • higher risk of getting diabetes later

If you have gestational diabetes, you will need extra support from health specialists to have a healthy baby. The best place to start is by visiting your doctor; they will give you advice on how to have a healthy pregnancy.

If you have gestational diabetes you need to have a diabetes test six weeks after the baby is born, and then again at 12 weeks, to see if the diabetes has gone away.

Having gestational diabetes means you are at high risk of getting diabetes later. You can reduce your risk by making healthy choices. See the Reduce your risk page for more information.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes in pregnancy

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and are pregnant or planning a pregnancy it is very important you speak to your GP about your plans of falling pregnant or as soon as you are pregnant.




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