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Gestational diabetes and pregnancy

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes which can affect women in pregnancy. Symptoms can be controlled with changes to your lifestyle and diet.

Diabetes is a condition where your body does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that controls blood sugar levels), meaning that the amount of sugar in your blood rises. Gestational diabetes can lead to complications for you and your baby. Around 5% of women develop gestational diabetes while they are pregnant.

This article covers gestational diabetes symptoms, treatment and diabetes after pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes symptoms

Gestational diabetes symptoms are the same as those for high blood sugar:

  • thirst
  • needing to go to the toilet regularly
  • feeling over-tired.

However, as these are common feelings when you are pregnant, gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed from a routine urine test. If the test shows that you have a high level of sugar in your urine, then you will be asked to take a glucose tolerance test which tests how well your body deals with a set amount of glucose (sugar) introduced into your body.

Controlling gestational diabetes in pregnancy

If your test shows that you have diabetes, don't worry, there are a number of ways to control your blood sugars. For many women, changing diet and exercising more will be enough to control their gestational diabetes. Diet is important, especially eating foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) - foods that have complex carbohydrates that break down slowly. A gestational diabetes diet is a healthy diet and if you have questions, you should see a dietician (your GP should be able to arrange an appointment). 

Exercise can also help and your GP or midwife can advise you about the safest way to stay healthy when you are pregnant.

If this approach does not control your blood sugars then you may need to take tablets or insulin injections. In any case, if you have diabetes in pregnancy, then you will need to check your blood sugar several times each day, in order to keep an eye on your blood sugar control over time.

Diabetes after birth

Gestational diabetes is a form of of the condition that usually goes away after your baby is born. However, it can be a significant risk factor for the condition after the baby is born. Around 30% of women who have diabetes when they are carrying a baby develop it after they are pregnant.

Further information 

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all aspects of being pregnant, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

NHS choices offers information on gestational diabetes and how to manage it. 

Diabetes UK has created a new guide on gestational diabetes to help women understand the condition, provide practical tips and explain the care and treatment women will receive to help them have a healthy pregnancy and labour.