Gestational Diabetes Test: What to Know Beforehand

Everything to Know About Taking a Gestational Diabetes Test

February 8, 2019

Everything to Know About Taking a Gestational Diabetes Test

Everything to Know About Taking a Gestational Diabetes Test
Photo by @xicana_mama
Everything to Know About Taking a Gestational Diabetes Test

If you’re approaching the midpoint of your pregnancy, chances are you’ve heard about the gestational diabetes test (a.k.a. glucose test) every pregnant woman gets.

Before you schedule your appointment and head off to the lab, here’s what you need to know about gestational diabetes testing—plus a little extra info because we know you want to know it all.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition where a pregnant woman’s body can’t properly regulate the level of glucose (sugar) in her blood, so it gets unhealthily high. This is mainly due to the hormones and weight gain of pregnancy and should go away after mom delivers (phew).

But gestational diabetes is important to detect, since it can lead to complications for mom and baby, including high birth weight, preterm birth and health problems later in life. And the CDC estimates that 2% to 10% of pregnant woman develop gestational diabetes.

That’s why every pregnant woman gets a gestational diabetes test around 24 weeks pregnant to 28 weeks pregnant—sooner if you have history of diabetes in your family or you’ve been diagnosed as prediabetic in the past.

Types of Gestational Diabetes Tests

There are two main gestational diabetes tests given during pregnancy: the glucose challenge test and the glucose tolerance test. You’ll definitely get one but may end up getting both. Here’s the scoop:

  • Glucose Challenge Test: The glucose challenge test is a screening test, meaning it tells doctors if you have signs of gestational diabetes. For this 1-hour glucose test, you’ll drink a sweet Gatorade-like drink called glucola, then wait an hour (bring reading material) and have your blood drawn. If your blood sugar level is high, it can be a sign of gestational diabetes, so you’ll likely get a follow-up test.
  • Glucose Tolerance Test: The glucose tolerance test is the follow-up test that can diagnose gestational diabetes, but some women take this one from the start. The glucose tolerance test is dreaded by many pregnant women because you have to fast for eight hours before the test. You’ll have your blood taken when you arrive, and then at 1 hour, at 2 hours and then at 3 hours. (That’s why it’s sometimes called the 3-hours glucose test.) So that means four blood draws and 11 total hours of no eating (sorry, pregnant mama). If two or more of the blood samples from your glucose tolerance test have high levels of glucose, you’ll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

What is a Normal Blood Glucose Level?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal blood glucose level on a gestational diabetes test is lower than 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L).

If you have a blood glucose level between 140 and 199 mg/dL (7.8 and 11 mmol/L), it’s considered “impaired glucose tolerance,” or prediabetes.

A blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) or higher may mean you have gestational diabetes.

Tips on How to Pass the Glucose Tolerance Test During Pregnancy

Pregnant women somtimes ask “how to pass” the glucose tolerance test. But here’s the truth: there’s no passing or failing. If you’re diabetic, the test will find out—and truly, that’s important for you and your baby, so you can get the treatment you need to prevent problems. And if you’re not, you’re not. So no trying to cheat the system here.

But we do have some tips for taking the glucose tolerance test:

  • Schedule your appointment for first thing in the morning: You’re not likely to worry about the fact that you’re fasting while you’re asleep. Then, you can get up, go immediately to your appointment and be done before lunch time.
  • Really do the fasting: It may seem like no biggie to have a midnight snack or a little bite of breakfast. But resist the urge! You really don’t want to end up with inaccurate or inconclusive results and have to do this gestational diabetes test all over again.
  • Drink water: Yes, you’re allowed to have small sips of water while you’re fasting. Hey, at least it’s something!
  • Keep yourself busy: Bring plenty to keep you occupied—a book, magazines, podcasts and/or music with earbuds… Three hours in a waiting room is really not fun without distractions.
  • Make your meal plan: You’re going to be ravenous and want to eat ASAP after that last blood draw. Plot out the nearest place to grab a quick snack or meal afterward. Or better yet, pack snacks and leave them in your bag or your car to grab as soon as you leave.

Gestational Diabetes Treatment

If you get diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it’s not the end of the world. But you will have to stay on top of things to keep yourself and your baby healthy. Gestational diabetes treatment includes:

  • Healthy eating: Your doctor will probably refer you to a nutritionist who will help create a healthy eating plan. This will include watching your carb intake (but not cutting carbs completely—yay). We have healthy gestational diabetes eating tips here.
  • Exercise: Exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can go a long way in helping you control your blood sugar and prevent complications from gestational diabetes. It doesn’t need to be intense—gentle exercise like swimming and prenatal yoga can help. You might also find that taking a walk after a meal helps keep your blood sugar low.
  • Monitoring your blood sugar: It’s no fun having to prick your finger and test your blood sugar throughout the day. But this is a really important part of monitoring your gestational diabetes.
  • Extra OB visits: You’ll probably find your doctor wants to check in on you and baby more often because you have gestational diabetes. You may get more ultrasounds too. You’ll be busy, but it’s all to make sure baby’s still doing great in there. Plus, more ultrasounds means more peeks at that little cutie.

Hopefully, this information helps put your mind at ease as you prepare for your gestational diabetes test.

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