Preventing and Managing Gestational Diabetes with Hypnosis

One of the benefits of hypnotic relaxation is its effect on lowering blood glucose levels – helping you to prevent or manage gestational diabetes. Simply adding quality deep relaxation to your daily routine can make a huge difference to the health of your pregnancy and give your baby the best possible start to life.

Stress and Pregnancy

It’s quite natural during pregnancy to experience some stress about this huge life-changing experience – ranging from anxiety about childbirth to worries about the financial implications or readiness for parenthood.  Stress is “a state of tension that occurs when there are too many demands in the environment or when we experience or anticipate experiencing a situation that is perceived as threatening, unpleasant or unfamiliar” (Nejad & Volny, 2008).


When we experience stress the sympathetic nervous system (in the central nervous system) arouses and activates the stress response, more commonly known as “fight or flight” designed to protect us from danger – although in modern society the stress response is more likely to be responding to juggling our family responsibilities and work demands than it is from predatory animals!


Regardless of the stressor the body kicks into action, and part of that involves increasing and sending more glucose into the bloodstream, ensuring a quick source of energy to mobilise the body to take action i.e. fight or flee.


So, when you are stressed your blood glucose levels rises, increasing the risk for gestational diabetes.

The Good News

However, just as the body has the natural ability to arouse and prepare for action through the sympathetic nervous system, it also has a ‘recovery’ mechanism that calms this response and returns us (via the central nervous system) to balance, reducing the affects of stress – this is called the parasympathetic nervous system, or more commonly the Relaxation response.


The good news is this relaxation response can be deliberately activated, and in doing so gives us a host of benefits that combine stress control with health and wellbeing enhancement.

Gestational Diabetes

Some people are more at risk of developing gestational diabetes (e.g. when there’s a history of type-2 diabetes in the family) but basically diabetes occurs in a person when there is too much glucose in their bloodstream.


The hormone Insulin has the role of getting glucose from the bloodstream into the muscles and other tissues so it can be used as energy.  During pregnancy insulin production needs to increase fourfold (Auckland district health board), and sometimes insulin resistance can occur – this is when the placenta hormones that nourish the baby block the normal action of insulin so the body can’t effectively use the insulin it’s making and therefore high levels of glucose remain in the blood.


So, in gestational diabetes, insulin resistance or the mothers body not making enough insulin leads to high glucose levels, which increase the risk of pregnancy complications (such as pre-eclampsia and pre-term birth), and the baby can become very large which impacts delivery (e.g. higher need for c-sections and risk of shoulder dislocation).   The baby is also at higher risk of developing problems including respiratory distress syndrome (breathing issues), prolonged jaundice, and low glucose levels after separating from the placenta (Auckland District health board; diabetes.org.nz).


Gestational diabetes usually disappears after the baby is born – however having had gestational diabetes increases the risk by 50-60% of developing type-2 diabetes (diabetes.org.nz)

Deep relaxation has been scientifically proven to reduce blood glucose levels

The current recommended practices in New Zealand for the treatment of Gestational Diabetes centre around exercise and nutrition.  However, international research around diabetes has proven that regular deep relaxation and stress management can also be very effective in treating diabetes.   In studies of patients with Type-2 Diabetes (also attributed to high levels of glucose in the bloodstream)  regularly listening to relaxation audios and using stress management techniques significantly reduced blood glucose levels  (McGinnis et al, 2005; Surwit et al, 2002).


In fact lead researcher and medical psychologist Richard Surwit, from Duke University Medical Centre, says that using deep relaxation alongside the standard educational care for diabetes can be as successful at reducing glucose levels as you would expect to see from some diabetes-control drugs.

Hypnosis is an effective way of getting deep relaxation

So together with the appropriate nutrition and exercise,  adding 20 minutes of deep relaxation into your daily routine can have a really positive impact, not only on your glucose levels but also by lowering blood pressure (high blood pressure can also lead to complications during pregnancy) .


Hypnosis, a safe and naturally occurring state, has been proven as an extremely effective method of producing deep relaxation in both the mind and body.  Going into the hypnotic state not only slows our brain waves into alpha and theta states (like when we go through the sleep cycle at night) but it also triggers the physiological relaxation response in the parasympathetic nervous system.  The benefits to your mind and body from this deep relaxation are numerous –including lowering both glucose levels and blood pressure; and with the relaxation response activated your bodies energy can be diverted to restoring, healing and replenishing – I’m sure you can imagine how wonderful that is for both you and your baby!


You can get this deeply calming rest from hypnotic relaxation audios, or by seeing a Clinical Hypnotherapist who can help you manage and increase your capacity for coping with stress and set up instinctive responses that you can trigger whenever you want the mind and body relax instantly.  Birth Hypnosis addresses conscious and unconscious fears and anxieties about childbirth, as well as relaxation and pain control methods.

Hypnosis reduces the risks, use it for self-care and prevention

So just as you’re likely to be prioritising taking folic acid, getting adequate exercise and eating well, consider adding quality deep relaxation of the mind and body into your daily routine for self care and prevention of pregnancy and birth complications – maximising your chances for the best possible outcome for you and your baby.

Please note: Hypnotherapy is a wonderful therapeutic modality, complementary to most conditions, however it is not a substitute for medical advice and/or care.


Auckland District Health Board (Sept 2013) Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM). Diabetes Clinic, National Women’s Health, Auckland City Hospital
McGinnis, R. A., McGrady, A., Cox, S. A., & Grower-Dowling, K. A. (2005) Biofeedback-Assisted Relaxation in Type 2 Diabetes.  Diabetes Care, v28 pp2145-2149
Nejad, L., & Volny, K. (2008) Treating Stress and Anxiety: A Practitioner s Guide to Evidence-Based Approaches.  Bethel, CT: Crown House Publishing 
Surwit, R.S., van Tilburg, M. A. L., Zucker, N., McCaskill, C. C., Parekh, P., Feinglos, N. M., Edwards, C. L., Williams, P., & Lane, J. D. (2002) Stress Management Improves Long-Term Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes.  Diabetes Care, v25 pp30-34