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Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is usually temporary and can be treated. Here we look at ways to help control blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

If you or your partner has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s reassuring to know it can be safely managed. Blood sugar levels may be controlled by making some diet and lifestyle changes.

What is the treatment for gestational diabetes?

When someone has gestational diabetes, controlling their blood sugar levels will help lower the chances of having problems with the pregnancy (NHS, 2019; NICE, 2020).

Gestational diabetes can be managed through healthy eating and regular exercise. These changes set good foundations for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Some people may also need medication if lifestyle changes don’t make enough difference to their blood sugar levels (NHS, 2019; NICE, 2020).

Healthy eating and exercise

It’s particularly important for people with gestational diabetes to focus on the type and amount of carbohydrates in their diet. A midwife or GP can advise about choosing foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) (NICE, 2020). These foods will help to keep blood sugar levels at a healthy and stable level. People with gestational diabetes should be referred to a dietician (NICE, 2020).

Physical activity also lowers blood glucose levels. A midwife or GP will provide guidance about the different ways of keeping active – like walking for 30 minutes after a meal (NICE, 2020). It’s good to aim for around two and a half hours of moderate exercise a week plus strength exercises on two or more days a week (NHS, 2019; NICE, 2020).

Taking medicine

If blood sugar levels are very high or if diet and exercise are not able to control blood sugar levels after one to two weeks, tablets or injections of insulin might be recommended. A GP or midwife can advise about this (NHS, 2019; NICE, 2020).

How will pregnancy care be different with gestational diabetes?

With gestational diabetes, a healthcare team will monitor the pregnancy and birth more closely. This makes sure that the risk of any problems as a result of diabetes is reduced.

Monitoring blood sugar levels

Someone with gestational diabetes will:

  • be asked to check their blood sugar levels several times a day
  • have a midwife provide them with a blood sugar testing kit and be shown how to do this
  • have a discussion with a midwife about how often to test blood sugar levels and what the ideal blood sugar level is.

    (NHS, 2019; NICE, 2020)

More appointments

  • More appointments will be offered with a midwife and/or GP to monitor the baby’s health and wellbeing (NHS, 2019; NICE, 2020).

Extra ultrasound scans

  • Extra scans will be offered to check how the baby is growing. By checking their size, your midwife and/or GP can discuss the best options for giving birth (NHS, 2019; NICE, 2020).

Gestational diabetes can cause problems during pregnancy and after birth, but the risks can be reduced if the condition is detected early and managed. One study showed that pregnant women who control gestational diabetes through their diet and whose babies are growing normally may be considered at low risk (Jabak and Hameed, 2020).

This page was last reviewed in November 2021.

Further information and support

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 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.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Read our article about what gestational diabetes is and what it means for you and your baby.

Find out more about gestational diabetes and how to manage it from the NHS Choices website.

Read Diabetes UK’s new guide to understanding gestational diabetes, with practical tips for having a healthy pregnancy.

You can also contact the Diabetes UK careline on 0345 123 2399, Monday to Friday, 9am–6pm.

Jabak S, Hameed A. (2020) Continuous intrapartum fetal monitoring in gestational diabetes, where is the evidence? J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 13;1-4. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/14767058.2020.1849117 [Accessed 17th November 2021].

NHS. (2019) Gestational diabetes. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gestational-diabetes/treatment/ [Accessed 17th November 2021].

NICE. (2020) Diabetes in pregnancy: management of diabetes and its complications from preconception to the postnatal period. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng3 [Accessed 17th November 2021].

Further reading

Diabetes UK. (2020) Facts and stats. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Professionals/Position-statements-reports/Statistics/ [Accessed 17th November 2021].

Diabetes UK. ( 2016) State of the nation: time to take control of diabetes. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Professionals/Position-statements-reports/Statistics/State-of-the-Nation-2016-Time-to-take-control-of-diabetes/ [Accessed 17th November 2021].

NICE. (2019) Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62 [Accessed 17th November 2021].

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