Gestational Diabetes: my experience

As you know I am no medical professional, so everything below is only my personal experience and may all be utter nonsense. 

I had a pretty textbook pregnancy for my first and second trimesters - zero morning sickness, no bleeding or cramps, nothing more than a bit of fluid retention and feeling a bit more tired than normal. I was loving pregnancy, and it seemed as though my body was adapting perfectly to growing a little human. 

I was given a 'mini GTT' (glucose tolerance test) at my 28 week midwife appointment, which involved drinking a bottle of lucozade on an empty stomach an hour before my appointment, then having blood taken and tested. I wasn't worried about the test at all, and thought it an unnecessary precaution as I didn't have any of the risk factors associated with developing gestational diabetes mellitus (or GDM for short), such as being overweight, having polycystic ovaries or being from certain ethnic groups. I'd also never had any sugar in my urine, so I thought I was fine. I still don't know why I was given the mini GTT, it may have been because my paternal grandfather had Type 2 diabetes in old age, or it may just be a standard test at Chelsea and Westminster. Who knows. My main concern that morning was making it to my appointment on time; we were heading off to Devon for a last weekend away as a couple and had been held up at the car hire place. So there I was, driving into town and chugging Lucozade as I drove. 

Fast forward a week or so, after a fantastic weekend in the West Country sunshine spent eating ice cream and walking along the beach, and I received a call from the hospital to say my blood sugar levels were slightly higher than they'd like, but only slightly, so I had to come back for a full GTT - fasting bloods, followed by drinking a sugary liquid and then having bloods taken at one and two hours after the liquid. 

You can see where this is going... When the results came back I was 0.1 over the cut off, so I was diagnosed with GDM and issued with a personal blood glucose monitor and advice on foods to avoid, most of which were already things I didn't eat or drink much of, like white bread and fruit juice.  

I didn't find the thrice daily finger pricking too bad, and my levels were never particularly high. I also found the diet easy to stick to - the worst part by far being breakfast, as cereal made my blood sugar spike, and I'd developed a worrying Nutella dependency which had to be immediately stopped! The risk of having a bigger baby meant we got extra growth scans to check the baby's size - it was nice to see our little one again and the only real downside day-to-day was all the extra antenatal appointments I had to attend (fortnightly until 36 weeks and weekly thereafter). 

I found the diet a bit surprising. Everyone has different foods that will trigger a spike in their blood sugars, so while I couldn't have cereal for breakfast, I was fine with a few squares of chocolate, and some of the usual no-nos for diabetics (potatoes, fruit) were OK for me. 

By far the worst part was knowing that a diagnosis of GDM meant my birth plan had to be thrown out the window. My hospital has a reputation for being cautious when it comes to things like GDM, and I knew that from the moment I was diagnosed my pregnancy would be classed as high risk, meaning the MLU and the active, water birth I wanted were off the menu. I got off the phone from receiving the news from the midwife and burst into tears as I knew I would have to give birth on the labour ward and be continuously monitored, which was the last thing I wanted. 

As well as sadness over not having the birth I wanted, I also felt a lot of guilt. I was told about the increased risks associated with GDM (large baby, increased risk of stillbirth, risk of baby developing Type 2 diabetes later in life among others) and wondered what I'd done to bring this danger to my baby. Had I eaten too much cake in the first trimester? Should I have done more exercise? I felt like I'd let my baby and my partner down. 

I was told that the pregnancy wouldn't be allowed to go beyond 40 weeks, due to the increased risk of accelerated placental deterioration in women with GDM. A few episodes of perceived reduced fetal movement on my part (due to my pesky anterior placenta) landed me in the day assessment unit and it was agreed that I'd be induced at 39 weeks if the baby hadn't made her appearance by then. I tried everything in the days leading up to 2 October to evict her, but nothing worked and I had to submit to my worst fear, an induced and medicalised birth on the labour ward, strapped to machines and not a birthing pool in sight. 

Did it matter? Not in the slightest. Quite honestly, I enjoyed my labour. The combination of drugs, lovely midwives and a fantastic obstetrician meant that while I didn't get the hypnobirthing water birth experience I wanted, Annika's entry into the world was pretty relaxed and pain-free. 

The worst part was after the birth. Annika had to have her blood sugars tested a lot in those first few days. It felt like she was being stabbed with needles every few minutes, but in reality I think the most frequent it got was every six hours. Unfortunately, they strayed too low and when they hit 1.9, the midwives said she'd have to be taken into SCBU and fed by a tube. I was so upset at that point but, thankfully, her next lot of bloods were better and she was allowed to stay with me. As her sugars were low (because she'd got used to getting excess sugar while in the womb), I had to give Annika formula to keep her blood sugar stable. I'll be honest, I hated that part. While I have nothing against formula I was desperate to breastfeed and every little hospital bottle I gave her had me in tears.  I felt as though I'd failed my daughter - I'd made her ill and my milk wasn't making her better. It sounds silly but I can't even think of it now without getting upset. I think it's why I haven't expressed or given her any formula since - I'm sure the other girls from my antenatal group think I'm crackers when I refuse their offers of a night out on the grounds that I can't miss a feed, but I just can't face the idea of giving her a bottle again without thinking of the hours I spent on the postnatal ward, tears streaming down my face, as Annika threw up most of the bottle she'd guzzled moments earlier.

Despite all that, Annika's blood sugars did improve by Day 4, we managed to get her off the bottle and back on the breast without them dipping again, and we were allowed to go home. Neither Annika or I has sustained any obvious effects of the GDM, and she's gaining weight well. It's always in the back of my mind that I'll probably get GDM again next time (there's something like a 60% chance that I'll have it with a subsequent pregnancy) but overall my experience of it wasn't too bad. And, if it does happen again, I'll be more prepared for what to expect. 


  1. This is very educational content and written well for a change. It's nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post! Raul

  2. Remember, in Type 2 diabetes your body doesn't make enough insulin (keys), or some of your cells ignoring the insulin that is there.ammani