Insulin for Gestational Diabetes

Rebecca McPhee
Dietitian Member of the DAA


3 Minutes

Sometimes even when we make the best efforts to eat well, exercise and keep our weight within a healthy range, our blood sugar levels don't co-operate during pregnancy, and we develop gestational diabetes. While this may initially be distressing, the good news is that there is a plan B. Your doctor may suggest starting medication such as insulin which is injected using a pen device. This is an easy to use, safe option for both you and your baby.  

 

What is gestational diabetes?  

 

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy when the hormones produced by the placenta block the action of a women's insulin in regulating blood sugar levels. Irregular blood sugar levels can lead to some complications including early labour, bigger babies and high blood pressure for mums - among others. 

Gestational diabetes usually goes away when the baby is born; however, research shows that women who have had gestational diabetes are 50% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Further, if you have gestational diabetes in your first pregnancy, the chances of a recurrence in future pregnancies is bewteen 30% and 69%. 

The good news is that in most cases, gestational diabetes can be managed to ensure a healthy mum and bub.  

 

Gestational diabetes and insulin 

 

If you have been advised to start using insulin when you are pregnant, you are not the only one. In fact, in Canberra, over 40% of women who have gestational diabetes will need insulin. Some women feel anxious about needing to use insulin; however, it is good to know that it is perfectly safe, easy to use and will ensure your blood sugar levels reach the target range to keep you and your baby healthy. 

If it looks like you may need to use insulin to manage your gestational diabetes, here are five answers to some common burning questions around using insulin. 

 

1. Why do I need insulin? 

Insulin helps your body to regulate blood sugar levels which will help ensure the healthy growth and development of the baby and lower the risk of some pregnancy-related complications such as high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia.  

Insulin is safe to use for expectant mothers and does not harm your baby.  

 

2. How do I use insulin? 

There is lots of support and education available should you be advised to take insulin. Your diabetes educator and doctor can help you understand how much you need, when you administer it and how it should be measured.   

 

3. What if my blood sugar levels don't always reach the target range? 

Throughout the second half of pregnancy, it is not uncommon for your insulin dosage to regularly increase; this is because the placental hormones that regulate blood sugar levels continue to rise until you are close to your due date.

 

4. Will my anxiety go away? 

Feeling anxious about starting insulin is normal, and it may take some time to get used to a new treatment regime. It's important to remember that you are not alone. Your health professional team will be there to guide and support you every step of the way. There are around 1000 women in the Canberra area at any time with gestational diabetes, and many of them are part of the Capital Chicks community.  

   

5. Does injecting insulin hurt? Is the needle long? 

Often the scariest part of needing insulin is the thought of administering it. For most women, they will use an easy to administer pen that helps make the injecting process simple. The needles are short, very fine and will not harm your baby.  

 

Summary 

  • Sometimes, no matter what we do, insulin is needed to regulate blood sugar levels during pregnancy to help keep both mum and baby healthy. 

  • Some women find the thought of injecting insulin anxiety-provoking, but it is important to know you are not alone.  

  • Insulin injecting devices have come a long way and are less painful and simpler to administer than most women expect. 

  • Injecting insulin will not harm your baby but instead will play a role in helping keep both mum and baby healthy.  

  • There are many support services available to mothers with gestational diabetes, including your doctor, diabetes educators, dietitians, pharmacists and the Capital Chicks CANberra Community.  

 

For a list of all the support services available as well as recipes, tips, hacks, events and so much more, join the Capital Chicks CANberra online community today.  

 

References 

  • N Poolsup et al. Effect of Treatment of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One. 2014; 9(3): e92485. 
  • Black MH, Sacks DA, Xiang AH, Lawrence JM. The relative contribution of pre-pregnancy overweight and obesity,estational weight gain, and IADPSG-defined gestational diabetes mellitus to fetal overgrowth. Diabetes Care. 2013; 36(1):5662. 
  • O’Sullivan J. Diabetes Mellitus after GDM.  Diabetes 1991; 29 (Suppl.2): 131‐35  
  • Moses RG. The recurrence rate of gestational diabetes mellitus in subsequent  pregnancies. Diabetes Care 1996; 19: 1348‐1350 
  • Stephanie MacNeill et al. Rates and Risk Factors for Recurrence of Gestational Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2001 Apr; 24(4): 659-662. 
  • Young, R et al. Gestational Diabetes in the ACT: Continuing to Grow. Dietitians Canberra Health Services, Canberra Health Services and University of Canberra 
  • Brown J, et al. Insulin for the treatment of women with gestational diabetes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Nov 5;11 
  • www.ndss.com.au  

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