The Dreaded Glucose Test

by Heather Neal

Tuesday I was faced with the lovely task of chugging a bottle of orange-flavored sugar water {50 grams of dextrose aka sugar!} for the mandatory pregnancy glucose screening test. I was dreading it- I do not like super sugary things, and I do not like drinking things fast. It would normally take me hours to drink what they made me drink in under 5 minutes. {It wasn’t a lot- I’m just weird.}

glucose test pregnancy gestational diabetes test

I had visions of nausea and light-headedness and general feelings of crappiness, but in reality, it wasn’t so bad. While I didn’t feel fantastic, I definitely survived unscathed.

However, if I don’t pass…I’m not so sure I can handle the double strength version of the test. So fingers crossed!

Glucose Testing

What is it exactly?

Around 26-28 weeks, every pregnant woman has to go through the not so pleasant task of downing a super sugary artificially flavored drink and then sitting around waiting for an hour to have blood drawn. If you fail, you’re subjected to an even more wonderful three hour version of the test, where you drink a double strength or double volume drink and then have your blood taken each hour for 3 hours.

glucose tolerance test diagnosing gestational diabetes test results

Just for the record, the first test is a glucose screening test. The second one is a glucose tolerance test.

Why?

To see how your body responds to sugar. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that can occur during pregnancy, regardless of whether or not you had diabetes before hand. Everybody is tested because it doesn’t really matter what your risk factors are- you can still get it. About 2-5% of pregnant women get gestational diabetes. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it makes it the most common pregnancy complication. While being obese and unhealthy certainly increase your chances, it’s not unheard of for a perfectly fit and healthy woman to become diabetic during pregnancy. In pregnancy, the body becomes “insulin stupid”, as my midwife likes to say. The hormones produced by the placenta cause insulin resistance, meaning it can’t work as well. Insulin is what controls the body’s response to sugar entering the blood. During pregnancy, it gets a little sluggish and doesn’t always do it’s job.

what is gestational diabetes

Most of the time you don’t get any hint that you have gestational diabetes- most women do not experience any symptoms, other some experience increased thirst or urination, fatigue, blurred vision, or frequent infections.

What does it mean if you have it?

Gestational diabetes puts you at risk for possible birth complications, the most apparent being macrosomia- a fancy term for a big baby. That means you might have to be induced early or need a c-section. A baby born to a mother with gestational diabetes also faces the risk of hypoglycemia- low blood sugar- right after birth, because the baby immediately loses the large supply of glucose from the  mother.  While gestational diabetes goes away after giving birth, having gestational diabetes also means you’re at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes down the road, so consider it a flashing warning sign.

How do you treat it?

It depends. Some people can keep it under control through diet and exercise, just like type 2 diabetes. Other woman need the help of insulin shots. Either way, you’ll probably be monitoring your blood sugar with finger pricks to keep an eye on things.

 

So now we sit and wait for the results. It’s not uncommon for additional blood tests to be run with the same blood draw from your glucose test, specifically iron. Pregnancy literally robs your body of iron- and it’s super important to keep those levels up. More about that another time.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie @ Healthy Heddleston November 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

I know it’s going to take me forever to drink it… I’m dreading it as well. I hope John can just sit by me and basically force me to drink it. I literally drink only water and milk since everything else tastes bad (to me). A sweet drink for me is chocolate milk, a few sips of apple juice, or the very seldom orange gatorade — that’s literally all I like — so I’m VERY nervous about this! A three our glucose test would be torture and I hope to pass on the first time! Good luck with your results and sorry for writing a book!!

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tinysneakers November 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

They made me sit in a closet (where they weigh you) and drink it while the CNA stared me down. It was awkward, but it made me do it. The worst part was having that much liquid in my stomach (for normal people it’s no big deal- maybe 8 or 10 oz?). I was really, really not looking forward to it because I hate sweet things too- the idea of a regular soda makes me gag. But it wasn’t bad, I promise. Double strength would likely kill me though. ;)

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Katie @ Healthy Heddleston November 11, 2011 at 10:33 am

Sit in a closet!? Hehe this just sounds funny to me.

Anyway, my doctor said I would go to the lab, drink the stuff, come up for my appointment, and then go back to the lab for the blood work to be drawn. Did you sit and wait for an hour or have your appointment in between?

She’s also having me do it at 24 weeks. I guess I didn’t realize there was so much variation with this test! I feel like a bad dietitian! :P

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tinysneakers November 13, 2011 at 8:52 am

I had my appointment in between- I think it was mostly luck that the midwife was ready then though! I had to have the ultrasound first though so the sugar didn’t make the baby go crazy. ;)

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marci November 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Your explanations of things are always really helpful. I knew some about the glucose test and what GD is, but this was helpful too! My test is in probably 5 weeks.

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tinysneakers November 13, 2011 at 8:53 am

Hope it goes well!

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Jen November 10, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I agree, it was gross but not that bad. They almost made me repeat it because my blood sugar was so low after it. But I’ve always had low blood sugar so I got out of it. I hope you get good results, and don’t need to do the 3 hour!

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tinysneakers November 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Ugh I’m glad they didn’t make you do it again!!

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Rachel in NC November 10, 2011 at 7:54 pm

The double strength really isn’t that bad either. I failed the 1 hr by 3 points and got to do it all again!

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tinysneakers November 13, 2011 at 8:54 am

Ahh no fun!

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Vicky S. November 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

OMG. I just took this test on Wednesday. They gave me only 2 minutes to drink it. I found it kinda gross… like super sugary flat orange soda. The doctors at my office have the drink served cold, this apparently helps a lots. Luckily the doctors office called me the next day and told me my levels were completely normal… NO three hour test for me!

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tinysneakers November 13, 2011 at 8:56 am

Yay!

I think super sugary flat orange soda is the perfect description- and it being cold would be so much better!

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sarah (the SHU box) November 11, 2011 at 6:42 pm

ahhh not excited about this! although if i fail, i’ll get to see what it’s like to be diabetic for a little while which could be a valuable perspective to me due to all of my diabetes patients. i’d really rather not, though!!!!!!!!!

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tinysneakers November 13, 2011 at 8:57 am

It’d certainly be a valuable perspective, but I hope it’s one you don’t get to experience! ;)

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