More women are being diagnosed with gestational diabetes each year, with it affecting around 1 in 20 women during pregnancy.
Some women have a higher risk of developing it because of risk factors like living with obesity or overweight or having a family history. Find out more below.
Can you prevent gestational diabetes?
It’s not always possible to prevent gestational diabetes, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. This includes getting support to manage your weight, eat healthily and keep active before pregnancy.
Tips to reduce your risk of gestational diabetes
The best way to reduce your risk of gestational diabetes is to try to be as healthy as possible before you get pregnant. If you are living with overweight or obesity, you can consider getting support to lose weight, and following a healthy, balanced diet and taking regular exercise really help.
You could also try swapping fizzy and sugary drinks for water and drink a glass with meals as well as staying hydrated in between meals.
Regular exercise has many benefits for keeping you fit and healthy, so it’s good to keep active and exercise at least 150 minutes a week.
Take a look at our exercise hub, which includes advice on how to fit exercise into a busy lifestyle, including a weekly activity planner.
Is gestational diabetes my fault?
If you do get diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s important to remember it’s not your fault. You might be feeling shocked or guilty about the diagnosis and wondering if you caused it somehow, but this isn’t the case.
There’s a lot happening in the body during pregnancy. As well as the physical signs, the hormones you produce can make it hard for your body to use insulin properly. This puts you at an increased risk of insulin resistance, and some women can’t produce enough insulin to overcome it.
This makes it difficult to use glucose (sugar) properly for energy, so it stays in your blood and the sugar levels rise. This then leads to gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes and your mental health
During pregnancy, your midwife and care team should ask if you’ve ever had problems with your mental health and check in on whether you’re having any now.
If you’re feeling bad about yourself or experiencing any other symptoms of depression, remember you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to be open and ask for support. It’s a hard thing to do, but asking for help and talking about how you’re feeling can be really helpful.
“I’d really recommend newly diagnosed mums speak to other mums with, or who’ve had, gestational diabetes, if they can. The moral support really helps.”
– Vicky, a journalist from London
Some factors that can increase your risk of gestational diabetes include:
- Living with overweight or obesity
- Having had it before in a previous pregnancy
- Having had a very large baby in a previous pregnancy – 4.5kg/10lb or more
- Having a family history of diabetes – this means at least one parent or sibling
- Having a South Asian, Black or African Caribbean or Middle Eastern background.
- Increasing age
Going into pregnancy at a healthy weight
Being a healthy weight before you start trying to get pregnant will help your body prepare for pregnancy.
If you're living with overweight
If you are living with overweight or obesity, it can be harder to get pregnant, and increases the risk of some complications during pregnancy. If you’d like to lose weight before you get pregnant, we have lots of information and support, including a weight loss planner, meal plans and emotional support. You can also speak to your healthcare team about what support is available to you such as weight management programmes. You shouldn’t try to lose weight while you’re pregnant.
If you’re living with underweight
You’re considered underweight if you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of below 18.5, and this can also affect your fertility and increase the risk of health problems during pregnancy. If you’re underweight and want to get pregnant, speak to your GP or healthcare team for advice. We also have a page on how to gain weight.