Experiences of Gestational Diabetes – Research

Hi everyone! A new opportunity to get involved with research: this week it’s the turn of Sarah Hickman, who’s looking at people’s experiences of Gestational Diabetes!

I’ve touched on the topic of Gestational Diabetes here on the page on Glucose Tolerance Testing, though Sarah explains more below. I’ll let Sarah introduce it herself!

Introduction

My name is Sarah and I am a Psychotherapist, student and mother to one. I am currently studying for a research Masters at Staffordshire University; exploring the experiences of women and birthing people, who have had a diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, during the perinatal period (GDM). 

Picture of Sarah Hickman (and her baby!)

A literature review has revealed that treatment pathways, opinions and criteria for both testing and receiving a diagnosis vary nationally. As a Psychotherapist I feel that there is not enough consideration or level of care for the potential implications on a mother-to-be’s mental health. I hope that my research will inform future therapeutic practice within perinatal care. 

Why is this important to me?

I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in 2021. Previous to this I had no idea that it was even a condition. I was naive, and since then I have learnt that this is in fact a common complication in the UK. GDM means that the blood sugar levels are increased and have the potential to cause negative outcomes if not managed correctly. 

I was tested at 28 weeks, due to my BMI being over 30. I took the glucose test on Monday, received the results on Tuesday, sat in front of the Diabetic nurses on Wednesday and by Friday I was prescribed two doses of Metformin a day. Two weeks later I was injecting Insulin into my stomach.

It all happened very quickly, and it felt like something that was happening to me. In the process I lost my Midwife as I was transferred to a combined Consultant and Diabetic care team; I had increased appointments, an extra scan and I was told that an earlier induced birth would make for the wisest decision. It felt serious. 

Wasn’t I supposed to get a birth plan in all of this- some element of informed choice? 

Contradictions 

The Diabetic nurse and the consultant both told me that Gestational Diabetes can happen to anyone; it wasn’t necessarily due to my weight- and yet that was the only reason I was tested.

I was given extra scans because I was told my unborn child was going to be so big that it had the potential to cause problems during labour, yet the ultrasound technician claimed that it was because they were unsure of the ‘shelf-life’ of the placenta. 

I was told to eat sensibly, but do not change any of your current eating habits. Everytime I had to report back a high blood sugar, I was questioned on my food intake. It felt like as a woman with a higher BMI, then it was expected that I would eat terribly and that I would automatically make bad choices. 

I made every effort to eat sensibly, I was terrified that I was potentially causing harm to my unborn child. 

My Experience

I had gestational diabetes for 10 weeks and during that time my lifestyle (and my partners) was turned upside down. I was testing my blood, one-hour before and one-hour after every meal. I was carrying a glucose testing kit and record book at all times, I was so anxious each time I had to test my blood, just in case it was too high- each time it was, I felt like I had failed. If I couldn’t get the pregnancy part right, what chance did I have at motherhood? 

I was making efforts to eat sensibly and exercise but it just took 2 of those readings to be above 7.8 mmol/L and I was being advised by the Diabetic Nurses to up my Metformin dose. This escalated to the introduction of Insulin. Which involved further things to consider; I was now at risk of low blood sugar. I was told to inform my car insurance, and carry a supply of jelly babies around with me. 

I was induced at 38 weeks, which ended up being a week-long process, as the result of 2 failed pessaries. My son was eventually born at 8.31 am on 27th November, weighing 8 pounds and 1 ounce, perfectly healthy. I do not regret or wish things could have been different in my treatment plan. I would, however, have liked there to have been some level of consideration of my mental health. Particularly around the word choice and how this diagnosis was explained by professionals. 

I am mindful that this is only my experience, I am interested in hearing the good, the bad and the indifferent from others who have managed Gestational Diabetes. 

How can you share your experiences of Gestational Diabetes?

I am asking for participants who have had gestational diabetes –
 during their first pregnancy
 have no long-term mental health concerns
 are over the age of 18

If this applies to you, and you have an hour spare for a Microsoft Teams meeting and feel that you would be able to share your experience of Gestational Diabetes – please get in touch. I’m afraid that as this is a Masters project, I’m afraid I can’t offer you any financial incentive for your time as there’s no funding, but I really hope that what I find out can be used in future to inform better care for the people who use these services after us.

                                          h021217i@student.staffs.ac.uk 

Thanks Sarah! If you’re able to help Sarah out by volunteering an hour of your time, I’m sure she’d be very grateful!

Leave a reply here to get involved!