Mother and Baby

Pregnancy Health A-Z: Gestational Diabetes

Wondering if your pregnancy symptoms mean you could have gestational diabetes? Discover more about this pregnancy condition and how to treat it with our latest health know how

What is it?

Whenever you eat, your body produces the hormone insulin, which regulates your blood sugar.

During pregnancy your body needs extra insulin and if you don’t produce enough, your blood sugar levels can become abnormally high – and this is known as gestational diabetes, which can only be developed when pregnant.

Gestational diabetes increases the likelihood of problems, such as high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia.

What are the symptoms?

Sometimes there are no obvious signs or symptoms and gestational diabetes is only discovered during a routine screening during your pregnancy. But, common symptoms can include being thirsty all the time, having a dry mouth, needing to go to the toilet all the time and getting recurrent infections including thrush. 

Common symptoms can include being thirsty all the time, having a dry mouth and needing to go to the toilet all the time

If a blood test shows you have raised glucose levels, you’ll be given a glucose tolerance test at your local hospital, which will help give you a diagnosis. This involves an overnight fast before a blood test. Then you’ll be given a sugary drink to see how your body metabolises the sugar

‘If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, then you’ll be seen regularly by your midwives and doctors,’ says GP and author of Your Pregnancy Week by Week Philippa Kaye.

‘You may be asked to check your blood glucose regularly and will be told what your individual blood glucose target is.’

How is it treated?

In most cases, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, starchy carbs and foods low in fat, sugar and salt will help to manage pregnancy diabetes. You may also be advised to eat little and often, to encourage your body to produce insulin.

‘If changing your diet doesn’t keep your blood glucose under control you may be given medication, which can be oral or be insulin injections,’ says Philippa. ‘You will be monitored closely by your antenatal team and will have regular check ups and scans.’

What happens after birth?

Your blood glucose levels should go back to normal after you’ve had your baby, but you will need another glucose tolerance test about six weeks after birth.

After having gestational diabetes during one pregnancy you are at a higher risk of developing it during another, but following a healthy diet can reduce your chances.

Speak to your GP about any concerns and tips on minimising your future risk when planning to have another baby.


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