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Gestational Diabetes: Giving Yourself Insulin Shots

Introduction

If you have gestational diabetes and you have not been able to keep your blood sugar levels within a target range by changing the way you eat and by exercising, you may need insulin shots.

  • Taking insulin can help prevent high blood sugar. High blood sugar can lead to problems for you and your baby.
  • Insulin is given as a shot into the fatty tissue just under the skin. In pregnant women, insulin usually is given in the upper arm or thigh.
  • At first, you may feel nervous about giving yourself insulin shots. But after a little while, it will become a routine part of your day. It is not hard to learn how to do. And any sting you might feel will not last long. More than 500,000 people in the United States do this every day. You can, too.
  • Make sure that you:
    • Have the right dose of insulin, especially if you are giving two types of insulin in the same syringe.
    • Practice how to give your shot.
    • Store the insulin properly so that each dose will work well.
 

Insulin for injection comes in:

  • A vial: You will use an insulin syringe to get the insulin and to give yourself a shot.
  • A cartridge: You will use a pen-shaped device called an insulin pen. The cartridge fits inside the pen and the dose of insulin is set with a dial on the outside of the pen. The pen (with the cartridge inside) is used to give the medicine. Insulin pens are either disposable or reusable. Disposable pens include a prefilled cartridge. Reusable pens can be refilled with new cartridges of insulin again and again.

To give an insulin shot, the needle (attached to the syringe) is inserted through the skin. The medicine is pushed from the syringe into fatty tissue just below the skin. In pregnant women, insulin usually is given in the upper arm or thigh.

Your doctor may have you take two types of insulin at the same time. Most types of insulin that are prescribed to be taken at the same time can be mixed together in the same syringe. Some insulin pens work with premixed insulin cartridges, such as Humalog Mix 50/50, Humulin 70/30, and NovoLog Mix 70/30.

Test Your Knowledge

To withdraw a single dose of insulin from a vial, I need to use a syringe.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    To withdraw a single dose of insulin from a vial, you do need to use a syringe.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    To withdraw a single dose of insulin from a vial, you do need to use a syringe.

  •  

To give a shot of insulin, the needle of the syringe is inserted into the skin, and the medicine is pushed into the fatty tissue just under the skin.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    To give an shot of insulin, the needle of the syringe is inserted into the skin and the medicine is pushed into the fatty tissue just under the skin.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    To give an shot of insulin, the needle of the syringe is inserted into the skin and the medicine is pushed into the fatty tissue just under the skin.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

Normally, insulin is made by the pancreas. Insulin helps sugar (glucose) enter cells, where it is used for energy. It helps our bodies store extra sugar in muscles, fat, and liver cells. Later, that sugar can be released if it is needed. Without insulin, the body cannot use sugar, causing the blood sugar level to get too high.

If you have gestational diabetes during pregnancy, your pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin. If regular exercise and changing the way you eat do not keep your blood sugar level within a target range, you may need to take insulin. Keeping your blood sugar level within a target range prevents complications for you, for your developing baby (such as growing too large for normal delivery), and for your baby after birth (such as low blood sugar levels).

People who have type 1 diabetes and some people who have type 2 diabetes also need to take insulin.

Test Your Knowledge

Your body does not provide enough insulin to meet your needs if you have gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Your body does not provide enough insulin to meet your needs if you have gestational diabetes during pregnancy. If changing the way you eat and getting regular exercise do not keep your blood sugar levels within a target range for you and your baby, you may need to take insulin.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Your body does not provide enough insulin to meet your needs if you have gestational diabetes during pregnancy. If changing the way you eat and getting regular exercise do not keep your blood sugar levels within a target range for you and your baby, you may need to take insulin.

  •  

Insulin shots help keep your blood sugar level within a target range, preventing problems for you and your baby.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Insulin shots help keep your blood sugar level within a target range, preventing problems for you and your baby. High blood sugar levels during pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure for you. It can also cause your developing baby to grow too large to be delivered vaginally and can cause the baby to have problems with low blood sugar after delivery.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Insulin shots help keep your blood sugar level within a target range, preventing problems for you and your baby. High blood sugar levels during pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure for you. It can also cause your developing baby to grow too large to be delivered vaginally and can cause the baby to have problems with low blood sugar after delivery.

  •  

Continue to How?

 

Your doctor or certified diabetes educator (CDE) will help you learn to prepare and give yourself insulin shots. Here are some simple steps to help you learn how to do it.

Get ready

To get ready to give an insulin shot, follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and running water. Dry them thoroughly.
  2. Gather your supplies. Most people keep their supplies in a bag or kit so they can carry the supplies with them wherever they go.
    • You will need an insulin syringe, your bottle of insulin, and an alcohol wipe or a cotton ball dipped in alcohol.
    • If you are using an insulin pen, you will need a needle that works with your pen. If the pen is reusable, you may need an insulin cartridge. You may also need an alcohol swab.
  3. Check the insulin bottle or cartridge.
    • When you use an insulin bottle for the first time, write the date on the bottle. On the 30th day after opening it, throw the bottle away. Insulin may not work as well after 30 days.
    • On a reusable insulin pen, note the date you started using the pen. Reusable pens expire (for example, after several years).
    • Check that a disposable pen's insulin has not expired. This date is usually printed on the pen's label.

Prepare the shot

Your preparation will depend on whether you are giving one type of insulin or mixing two types of insulin.

If you are using an insulin pen, follow the manufacturer's instructions for attaching the needle, priming the pen, and setting the dose.

Prepare the site

Before giving your shot, take the time you need to do the following:

  • Choose the part of your body to inject. If you give your shots in different places on your body each day, use the same site at the same time of day. For example, each day:
  • If you use alcohol to clean the skin before you give the shot, let it dry.
  • Relax your muscles in the area of the shot.

Give the shot

Follow the steps for giving an insulin shot in the arm.

Follow the steps provided by the pen manufacturer for giving an insulin injection with a reusable insulin pen.

Clean up and storage

After giving your shot:

  • Store your insulin properly so that each dose will work well. Follow the instructions that come with the insulin.
  • Do not throw your used syringe, disposable insulin pen, or needle in a trash can. You can dispose of it in a metal container that either has a lid that screws on or a lid that you tape down tightly. You also can buy special containers for disposing of used needles and syringes. Talk with your local trash disposal agency, pharmacy, or your doctor about how to get rid of the container.

Other suggestions for success and safety

To help you be safe and successful in giving your insulin shots:

  • Teach someone else to give your insulin shots. Have that person give you a shot from time to time so they will know how to do it in case of an emergency.
  • Do not mix other medicine with insulin without your doctor's instruction. If you are taking two types of insulin, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether they can be mixed in the same syringe.
  • Never share syringes with another person. Diseases, such as HIV or infection of the liver (hepatitis), can be transferred through blood.

Test Your Knowledge

The first step in preparing insulin from a bottle is to roll the bottle gently between your hands.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    The first step in preparing insulin from a bottle is to roll the bottle gently between your hands. This will warm the insulin if you have been keeping the bottle in the refrigerator. Roll a bottle of cloudy insulin until the white powder has dissolved.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    The first step in preparing insulin from a bottle is to roll the bottle gently between your hands. This will warm the insulin if you have been keeping the bottle in the refrigerator. Roll a bottle of cloudy insulin until the white powder has dissolved.

  •  

When you are preparing a cloudy and a clear insulin to give a mixed dose, which do you put into the syringe first?

  • Cloudy insulin
    This answer is incorrect.

    When you are preparing a cloudy and a clear insulin to give a mixed dose, you put the clear insulin into the syringe first.

  • Clear insulin
    This answer is correct.

    When you are preparing a cloudy and a clear insulin to give a mixed dose, you put the clear insulin into the syringe first.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

Now that you have read this information, you are ready to start preparing and giving insulin shots.

Talk with your doctor or diabetes specialist

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor or diabetes specialist.

To learn more about the different types of diabetes, see:

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Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised August 13, 2013

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