Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is usually temporary and can be treated. Here we look at ways you can help control your 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. You may be able to control your blood sugar levels by making some lifestyle changes.

What is the treatment for gestational diabetes?

If you have gestational diabetes, controlling your blood sugar levels will help lower your chances of having problems with your pregnancy (NICE, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016).

You can help manage gestational diabetes through healthy eating and regular exercise. These changes to your lifestyle can help to make sure you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

You may also need medication if lifestyle changes don’t make enough difference to your blood sugar level targets (NICE, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016).

Healthy eating and exercise

If you have gestational diabetes, it’s particularly important to focus on the type and amount of carbohydrates in your diet. You can talk to your midwife or GP about choosing foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) (NICE, 2015). These foods will help to keep your blood sugar levels at a healthy and stable level. You should also be referred to a dietician (NICE, 2015).

Your midwife or GP will also provide guidance about the different ways you can keep active – like walking for 30 minutes after a meal (NICE, 2015). It’s good to aim for around two and a half hours of moderate exercise a week (NHS Choices, 2016).

Taking medicine

If you need medication for your blood sugar levels, you might take tablets or have injections of insulin. Talk to your GP or midwife about this (NICE, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016).

How will my pregnancy care be different if I have gestational diabetes?

Your healthcare team will monitor you more closely during your pregnancy and your baby’s birth. This makes sure that the risk of any problems as a result of your diabetes is reduced.

Monitoring your blood sugar levels

  • You will be asked to check your blood sugar levels several times a day.
  • Your midwife should provide you with a blood sugar testing kit and show you how to do this.
  • They will also discuss with you how often to test your blood sugar levels and what the ideal blood sugar level is for you.

    (NICE, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016)

More appointments

  • You will be offered more appointments with your midwife and/or GP to monitor you and your baby’s health and wellbeing. (NICE, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016)

Extra ultrasound scans

  • You will also be offered extra scans to check how your baby is growing. By checking their size, your midwife and/or GP can discuss your best options for giving birth. (NICE, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016)

Gestational diabetes affects around 1 in 20 pregnant women and can be safely managed. If you have any concerns, contact your midwife or GP (NICE, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016).

This page was last reviewed in March 2017.

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.

NHS Choices. (2016) Gestational diabetes. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gestational-diabetes/Pages/Introduction.aspx [Accessed 1st March 2017]

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). (2015) Diabetes in pregnancy: management of diabetes and its complications from preconception to the postnatal period. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng3 [Accessed 1st March 2017]

Further reading

Diabetes UK. (2016) Facts and stats. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Professionals/Position-statements-reports/Statistics/ [Accessed 1st March 2017]

Diabetes UK. ( 2016) State of the nation: time to take control of diabetes. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Professionals/Position-statements-reports/Statistics/State-of-the-Nation-2016-Time-to-take-control-of-diabetes/ [Accessed 1st March 2017]

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2008) Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies. Available from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg62 [Accessed 1st March 2017]

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