Gestational diabetes (GD) affects about 1 in 10 women during their pregnancy. Fortunately, unlike other types of diabetes, GD (if treated properly) typically goes away after the baby is born. Although GD is usually short lived, it’s important to treat it for the health of the mother and baby. Since GD is often diagnosed later in the pregnancy, after the baby is developed, the risks to the baby are low. However, if GD is not managed, the extra insulin can a baby to be a bigger baby and delivery complications may occur.
The best way to find out if you have gestational diabetes is through testing and your doctor will recommend a test between the 24th and 28th week of your pregnancy. If you have certain “risk factors” such as advanced maternal age (over 35) or being overweight, your doctor may have you tested earlier in your pregnancy.
Routine Screening for GD
The thought of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes can be scary for many expectant mothers, however, the testing process if relatively easy and painless. While your testing experience may be different, here is what you can expect:
- Initial Glucose Challenge Test: This test is also known as the 1 Hour Glucose Test. There is usually no fasting required for this test and patients are encouraged to eat as they normally would throughout the day. At the 1 hour test, you will be asked to drink a syrupy glucose solution, sometimes known as Glucola. Many people describe the glucose solution as tasting like flat soda, depending on the flavor, but it has a very sweet taste.
After you finish the glucose solution, you will be asked to sit quietly for an hour. After an
hour has passed your blood will be drawn and tested. If your blood sugar level is below
140 mg/dL, it’s usually considered normal and you have passed your glucose test and
further screening may not be needed. If your sugar levels test higher than 140, it’s likely
that you’ll need to move on to the 3 hour test.
- Follow-Up Glucose Tolerance Testing: This test is also known as the 3 hour Glucose Test. Just like the initial test, you’ll be asked to drink the glucose solution, but this one has a higher concentration of glucose. You should fast (no food or drink) overnight and your blood will be drawn before you drink the Glucola, and after the first, second, and third hours. If at least 2 of your results are higher than normal, you will likely be diagnosed with GD and you will discuss treatment options with your doctor.
What If I Tested Early in My Pregnancy?
If your doctor tested you for GD before 24 weeks and you passed your glucose screening, you may have to be retested later in your pregnancy.
Are There Side Effects to the Test?
Although most women do not feel any ill effects from the glucose test, some women may feel light-headed, sweaty, or nauseous after drinking the glucose solution. If you start to feel ill, talk with medical staff and try to stay calm and quiet while you wait.