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As an expecting or new parent, your journey is going to be filled with countless new experiences and milestones. One of which is the pregnancy glucose test which you may have heard about from friends and family who have previously been pregnant. This crucial test is performed during pregnancy to screen for gestational diabetes, a temporary form of diabetes that can affect both the parent and baby. While the thought of any medical test may seem intimidating, understanding the purpose, preparation, and procedure of the oral glucose testing can help alleviate any apprehension that you may feel. In this blog post, I will walk you through the process, so you can be well-prepared and informed for this essential assessment.
Understanding the Purpose of the pregnancy glucose test
Oral glucose tolerance testing, also known as the pregnancy glucose test, is a diagnostic procedure to determine if a pregnant parent has gestational diabetes. This condition can occur when the body is unable to produce or effectively use enough insulin during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes, if left undetected and untreated, can pose risks for both the parent and the developing baby, such as large birth weight (macrosomia) , preterm birth, and potential complications during delivery.
If you are planning an out of hospital birth with a midwife at home or at a birth center, you may need to prove you can safely manage your gestational diabetes effectively at home without medication or you may have to transfer to a hospital care provider and hospital birth to receive additional support and monitoring.
When Is Oral Glucose Testing Recommended?
Typically, the pregnancy glucose test is conducted between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. However, if a pregnant person has certain risk factors, such as a family history of diabetes, having a larger body, or having a history of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, the test might be performed earlier in the pregnancy.
Preparing for the Oral Glucose Test:
Prior to the test, your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions on how to prepare. There may be variations to how they ask you to prepare but common guidelines include:
a. Fasting: In most cases, you’ll be asked to fast for at least 4-8 hours before the test. This means avoiding food and only drinking water during the fasting period. Prior to fasting, it is helpful to make sure you eat a protein and nutrient dense meal. This can possibly help your test be more accurate as well as keep you from experiencing nausea, light headedness, or dizziness from the glucose test.
b. Diet: Throughout pregnancy and in the days leading up to your glucose test, try to maintain a balanced diet and avoid excessive sugary or high-carbohydrate foods. Eating a well-rounded diet that centers protein can help ensure more accurate results. Nourishing your body with nutrient dense foods and protein will also help you feel better through pregnancy.
The Oral Glucose Testing Procedure
During the day of your pregnancy glucose test, eat a nutrient and protein dense meal before you begin fasting. Then you will want to fast the appropriate amount of time that your healthcare provider asked you to.
When you arrive to your prenatal appointment or the testing lab, you will be asked to drink the Glucose Drink. It may taste sweet, and while it might not be enjoyable, you will be asked to drink it all within a short timeframe.
Once you have finished the glucose drink, you need to remain in the clinic and wait exactly one hour before having your blood drawn. (This is for the initial 50g OGTT)
At one hour past you drinking your glucose drink, blood samples will be drawn and sent off to a lab to monitor how your body processes glucose.
Once the test is finished the pregnancy glucose test, you can eat a protein dense snack to help ease any symptoms from the glucose drink you may have felt.
What to Expect During the Test
During the one hour waiting period, you might experience mild dizziness, nausea, or lightheadedness due to the concentrated glucose drink. Some people may feel more fatigued than usual. It’s helpful to stay relaxed during this waiting time.
Receiving the glucose test Results
After the oral glucose testing is complete, your healthcare provider will send the blood samples off to be analyzed and inform you about the results. If your test results are within normal ranges, congratulations, you do not have gestational diabetes! However, if the test shows elevated glucose levels, don’t panic; it doesn’t necessarily mean you have gestational diabetes. Your doctor may recommend additional tests to confirm the diagnosis. This can include at home monitoring or a 3 hour glucose test at a lab.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Pregnancy Glucose Test
The oral glucose test is performed to screen for gestational diabetes, a temporary form of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy. It helps healthcare providers like midwives and OBGYNs identify if the parent’s body is processing glucose properly and if there is a risk of gestational diabetes.
The initial pregnancy glucose test involves fasting for a certain period, usually 4 hours, and then having a blood sample drawn to measure fasting blood glucose levels. After that, the parent is given a 50 gram glucose solution to drink, and their blood glucose levels are checked after one hour to assess how their body processes glucose.
Yes, fasting is typically required for the accuracy of the test. It helps establish a baseline fasting blood glucose level before the glucose drink is consumed. Eating a protein dense meal prior to fasting can be beneficial. Also, having a protein dense snack to eat after the test is finished can help alleviate light-headedness or nausea.
There are different options of glucose drinks to chose from and each one will have a different taste. The lab sends providers glucola, which will be either clear or have food dye added to it. This glucola drink is often orange flavored or unflavored. There is another test called the ‘Fresh Test‘. Many parents prefer order and taking the Fresh Test because it tastes like lemon and mint, doesn’t have additives, and is organic. You will need to have a discussion with your health care provider about using this test option instead and you may have to order and bring it to your prenatal appointment yourself.
As a student midwife, I have witnessed some people complain of feeling dizzy, light headed, or nauseous. These effects go away after they have eaten a healthy protein dense snack after the test is finished. Also, eating a protein and nutrient dense meal before fasting for the test is beneficial!
If the results on your first Oral Glucose Tolerance Test are not within the range of normal, you will be asked to either perform at home glucose monitoring or do a second glucose test. For the second glucose test you will drink 100g of glucose and have your blood tested every hour for 3 hours.
If you are planning a home birth and do not pass the at home monitoring or the three hour glucose test, depending on your state midwifery laws, you may have to prove that your gestational diabetes can be managed at home without medication or transfer to a hospital provider & birth for close monitoring, management, and medication.
With proper management and care, the risks of gestational diabetes can be minimized, and it can possibly be controlled. By working closely with your healthcare team, you can reduce potential risks to the baby.
This condition can be effectively managed through a combination of lifestyle changes and medical interventions. By following your healthcare provider’s advice, which may include a balanced diet, regular exercise, and monitoring blood sugar levels you can manage gestational diabetes. Proper management of gestational diabetes is crucial to ensure the well-being of both the parent and the developing baby.
Yes, having gestational diabetes does increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, but with appropriate lifestyle changes, this risk can be reduced.