Glucose Testing for Gestational Diabetes

pregnant mom eating donuts

For me, there's nothing like pregnancy to kick off a sweet tooth! That can be all well and good in moderation unless you're facing a case of gestational diabetes where your sugar intake must be closely monitored and regulated. I have been pregnant six times and have taken nine glucose tests for gestational diabetes. I've had different experiences every single time. I have definitely learned a few tricks of the trade to make the test go as smoothly as possible as you wait for your results! 

What is gestational diabetes?

During pregnancy, you can develop a high blood sugar condition known as "gestational diabetes.” Often there are no apparent symptoms of gestational diabetes; however, you can experience many of the typical symptoms associated with diabetes, such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, or fatigue. These symptoms can easily be missed as they are common in healthy pregnancies. Still, the invisible illness can have serious consequences for your unborn baby if left undetected. This is why pregnant people must get tested around 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. 

About the test

The test for gestational diabetes (also known as a glucose test) consists of having your blood sugar levels tested both before and after ingesting a concentrated amount of sugar (usually in the form of a sugary drink) to see how well your body processes that sugar. 

If your blood sugar is in the expected range after one hour, you do NOT have gestational diabetes! If your blood sugar is in a concerning range, your medical care provider will have you repeat a longer, more detailed, test to double-check the results. 

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Glucose Drinks

The sugary liquid most pregnant people drink for their glucose test is infamous among the pregnancy community. Many people have strong opinions about their experience drinking it. At the same time, some find themselves pleasantly surprised to discover it’s not as bad as they expected. Part of this can be due to the difference in personal tastes/opinions; another factor is that not all of the drinks are created equally. 

Reasons your glucose test drink experience may be different from someone else’s could include some of the following variables:

  • Brand: Glucola and Kolodex are two better-known brand names for the glucose tolerance test liquid, but there are other brands and a burgeoning market for even more options. 
  • Flavor: Orange is the most common flavor of glucose drink. However, you could also have lemon-lime or fruit punch, depending on what your medical care provider has on hand. As more brands respond to customer demands, more flavors could be developed! 
  • Concentration: Depending on your specific needs and your medical professional's best judgment, you could get different concentrations of the glucose drink. How concentrated your drink is will affect its sweetness. 
  • Temperature: Most people agree that the glucose drink is best-served cold. When it’s warm, the sticky sweetness is accentuated, making it feel thicker and more challenging to drink. (Pro-tip: imagining you're sipping melted snow-cone liquid can help get your brain past the sugar overload!) 
  • Drinking method: Drinking straight from the bottle or pouring the drink into a cup first are both options, whichever is your preference. You can also opt for a straw or no straw. (A cup rather than a bottle can help trick your brain into that melted snow-cone frame of mind, especially if it’s a styrofoam cup.)  
  • Mindset: Going into the test, dreading it will almost certainly guarantee a rough time. Instead, try marking the occasion as a celebration of you and your baby making it this far and taking care of yourselves and your health along the way. Planning something to look forward to such as a savory lunch or a get together with a friend can help ease some of the discomfort of the procedure and get you excited for the day! 

Alternatives to glucose drinks  

There’s no spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down when the “medicine” is sugar. However, if you just can’t get past the glucose drink, some pregnant people and their medical care providers opt for a completely different method of testing. This is partially due to questionable ingredients used, such as artificial coloring in many of the glucose drinks on the market. 

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  • Candy tests: While not necessarily any more “healthy” than the typical glucose drink, somehow, eating jelly beans or Twizzlers is significantly more appealing than the glucose drink. Professionals debate whether or not these candy tests are just as accurate as the more common and quantifiable glucose drink, but this can be a great option for those who can’t keep the drink down or may have allergies to the drink’s ingredients. 
  • Breakfast test: Another option is to replace the glucose drink with other foods that are naturally high in sugar, such as apple juice or grape juice, and a banana. Again, the results may be considered less accurate by some, but they are still a viable alternative for those hoping to go a more natural route — especially if you’re considered low-risk already. 
  • No test: If any kind of glucose test is out of the question, the alternative is just about the same as it would be for someone who tested positive. You must test your blood sugar frequently and keep track of your personal ranges to share with your medical care professional. 

Living with gestational diabetes 

If you do find yourself testing positive after your glucose test, don’t panic! A diagnosis of gestational diabetes can be scary and overwhelming, but it is manageable — and in most cases, temporary. For many, gestational diabetes can be managed with simple diet and exercise changes. More extreme cases will warrant blood sugar checks and insulin usage to help your body process sugar properly.

Reaching out to others who have experience with gestational diabetes (or regular type 1 or type 2 diabetes) can provide you with a wealth of information and support as you navigate this new world. 

The most important thing is that you and your medical care provider pay attention to your body and your growing baby's needs. The glucose test may not be fun, but it can provide critical information to keep you and your baby healthy as you head into your final trimester.

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