Medications and blood glucose levels
Lifestyle changes like making healthy food choices and doing some physical activity are key parts of managing gestational diabetes. Sometimes, diet and exercise are not enough to keep blood glucose levels in target range. This is normal. In 2016-2017, 44% of women with gestational diabetes in Australia needed medication to help them manage their condition.
If your blood glucose readings are above your targets, it’s likely you’ll need to start taking medication. This is usually metformin or insulin injections. These medications help to lower your blood glucose levels to keep you and the baby safe.
Needing medication doesn’t mean that you have failed in any way. The effect your pregnancy hormones are having on how your insulin works, is unfortunately not in your control.
Metformin is a tablet used to reduce your blood glucose levels. This will help you meet your blood glucose level targets. Like all medications it has side effects, so read the leaflet carefully and ask your pharmacist if you have any questions. Take the metformin when you’ve been instructed to by your GP or obstetrician. It’s important you take it as prescribed so it can have the positive effect on reducing your blood glucose levels.
Insulin is safe to take during pregnancy. It does not cross the placenta from the mother to the baby. Thanks to new technology, insulin needles are extremely fine and short. Some people can barely see them. Most people say that injecting insulin is less painful than pricking your finger to check your blood glucose levels.
Your healthcare team will review your insulin and blood glucose levels regularly to make sure that you’re on the right amount for you.
Blood glucose monitoring
Blood glucose monitoring is an essential part of gestational diabetes management. Checking regularly can help you see how different foods and activity affect your blood glucose levels. A diabetes educator can show you how to check your blood glucose levels using a blood glucose meter and tell you what levels to aim for.
When you check your levels, you’re seeing the amount of glucose in your blood at that exact point in time. Your levels will fluctuate all the time and there are many things that can cause your levels to go up and down.
The most common times to check blood glucose levels are when you wake up in the morning (fasting) and one or two hours after you start eating each main meal. Regular blood glucose monitoring gives you a guide as to whether the changes you have made to your lifestyle are working or whether you need more treatment like tablets and insulin. The readings can help you decide whether you might need to make changes to your carbohydrate portion sizes, exercise more regularly, or practice stress management techniques. Read our tips on healthy eating and exercise for gestational diabetes.
If your levels are higher than your recommended targets, tell your GP, obstetrician or diabetes educator so that you can get the treatment you need right away. Remember, a blood glucose test is not a test you can pass or fail, and needing tablets or insulin isn’t because of anything you’ve done, simply the way your body is working. It’s most important to treat the levels as soon as possible to keep you and your baby safe.