KNOWING sweets, chocolates and cakes, were not her weaknesses, pregnant Jodi Fair was confident her blood sugar levels would be fine.
At 28 weeks into her pregnancy, the 35-year-old had her blood sugar levels tested at Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham.
She was shocked to find her levels were high, and was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
It means she has been going to QA for more check-ups, has had to make changes to her diet and lifestyle, and will be induced, to keep herself and her baby safe during birth.
And she’s not alone, each year the hospital sees scores of diabetic mums – since April 2012, QA has seen more than 244 women.
Jodi, of Angela Close, Waterlooville, is currently 34 weeks pregnant.
She says: ‘During my pregnancy, I had to do a glucose tolerance test and that came back positive.
‘I went in to the test thinking there would be no problems, so I was quite surprised when the results came back positive.
‘I don’t eat a lot of chocolate, so thought I would be fine. What I didn’t realise was the amount of sugar that’s hidden in carbohydrates.
‘And I do love eating my carbs.’
There are three types of diabetes: Type 1 is where the body produces no insulin and is usually diagnosed from a young age, Type 2 is brought on by lifestyle and the third is gestational.
Gestational diabetes affects women during pregnancy, and doesn’t usually present itself until 28 weeks.
Normally, the amount of glucose in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin.
However, during pregnancy, some women have higher than normal levels of glucose in their blood and their body cannot produce enough insulin.
Carbohydrates also contain sugar, which if eaten in large portions, can affect blood sugar levels.
Jodi, who works for the National Apprenticeship Service, says: ‘I found out there’s a lot of sugars in carbohydrates like pasties, rice, potatoes and bread. I’m a large carb eater.
‘I work full time and that did limit what I did or did not do and what I ate.
‘I would say I’ve had a good life. But now I’ve had to cut down on the carbs I have and have more of a meal plan.
‘I’ve switched to wholemeal pasta and bread, I have jacket potatoes as opposed to chips or mash, and trying to eat more protein.’
Typically Jodi was having toast for breakfast, a sandwich at lunchtime and a carb-heavy meal such as a pasta dish for dinner.
Since her diagnosis Jodi has changed her diet.
She now has porridge in the morning for breakfast. At lunch, the expecting mum has a salad or jacket potato, and if she wants to eat a sandwich, she has switched from white bread to granary.
In the evenings wholemeal pasta is eaten. ‘I found lunchtime the hardest, and as I spend a lot of time on the road, it’s really easy to stop off and pick up a sandwich,’ adds Jodi. ‘But I have to change my diet, because it’s not just my health at risk, but my baby’s too.
‘After speaking to midwives I understood what risks I carried. They explained that if my baby gets too big, then a lot of weight will be put around the baby’s shoulders.
‘And if you go in to labour, the head would come out, but possibly not the shoulders. This means I’m going to be induced at 38 weeks, to ensure this doesn’t happen.
‘It’s not ideal, but it’s one of those things I’m going to have to do, so that me and the baby are safe.
‘I would say to women, make sure they have a healthy diet and lifestyle. Exercise and look at what you eat.
‘My diet was carb-loaded and I didn’t even realise. I’ve made changes now and it’s not too bad.’
Midwives are looking after more pregnant women that either have gestational, Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
Ann Going, is a diabetes specialist midwife at QA, and said that she has seen an increase in diabetic mums.
She says: ‘We’re trying to get the message across about having a healthy lifestyle so you have a healthy pregnancy.
‘When I came to Portsmouth four years ago, there were 66 referrals in Portsmouth.
‘In the last financial year this increased to 244.
‘In the nine months of this financial year we have already gone past 244, so the problem is escalating each year. ‘The majority of these cases are due to health and lifestyle.
‘We offer a test at 28 weeks to see if blood sugar levels are alright.
‘Women that have preconceptional diabetes, both Type 1 and 2, have an increased chance of having a miscarriage or the baby being born with congenital abnormalities.’
The specialist said that gestational diabetes can present itself during any pregnancy, but particularly if the woman is overweight.
‘A lot of these women will have their conditions under control, but this can change once they are pregnant,’ adds Ann.
‘If they are diabetic, then often they will have other problems, as diabetes doesn’t come on its own.
‘Normally anyone with diabetes, we would see them as soon as they test positive from the 28-week test.
‘We would then see them every two to four weeks during their pregnancy, depending on their need.
‘We keep a close eye on them to make sure their health and the baby’s is okay.’
Ann also explains why injecting insulin can cause problems for natural childbirth.
She says: ‘Usually women will have to take insulin as it’s a better way of controlling the condition.
‘What we are trying to do is stop a baby from being born with high sugar levels and can cause problems during birth.
‘Insulin is a growth hormone, and whatever a mum has is passed on to her baby.
‘What we’re trying to do is advise women to keep their blood sugar levels stable and be healthy, so if they get pregnant, this is passed on to their baby.’
Diabetes is a known problem in the Portsmouth area. QA is to feature on Channel 4 programme Food Hospital, which is focusing on pregnant women with diabetes.
‘The number of diabetic cases is escalating out of control. In Portsmouth this is largely due to social and economical reasons,’ says Ann.
‘Some people can’t afford the foods that are best for them.
‘With gestational diabetes, we have a chat about maintaining their sugar levels and get them to speak to a dietician early on.
‘These cases do impact on the hospital and clinicians, as they are in more.
‘Our advice is to eat healthily and be active.
‘We don’t need everyone going for a run, but it’s about walking and thinking about the food you are eating.
‘It’s about re-educating people so they understand carbohydrates are full of sugar. If you have a spaghetti Bolognese, then it is very high in sugar.
‘So it’s also about portion control and make sure you’re not eating too much.
‘It’s not that you can’t have something, it’s about having control on the amount you eat and exercising in the background.
‘If mum is overweight and gets diabetes, it puts pressure on the baby getting it.
‘We want to change peoples’ habits to stop this trend from carrying on.’
A DIABETIC mum is advising women to look after their health.
Louisa Bennett, of Gosport Road, Lee-on-the-Solent, gave birth to her third child Jack last month.
Louisa, 35, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2003, and during each pregnancy, she has made many trips to QA.
The stay-at-home mum was induced at 38 weeks and Jack was born weighing 9lbs 13oz.
She says: ‘If I waited full term he would’ve been 11lbs by the time he was born.
‘I would advise women to look after their health, and if they have diabetes and want to try for a baby, then go to their doctor first.’
Louisa normally controls her condition through tablets. But during her pregnancy, she had to switch to insulin injections.
She says: ‘I had to go to QA more frequently to get my vitals checked – things like my blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
‘I saw the diabetic specialist team from 26 weeks and had to check my sugar levels six times a day.
‘If you’re diabetic and you want to have children, then I would advise people to speak to their doctor first.
‘Being diabetic and pregnant means you have more check ups to ensure your blood sugar levels do not drop.
‘It can be dangerous for you and your baby, so it’s best to keep yourself healthy.
‘Eat healthily, even if you are eating for two, still control what you’re putting into your body.’