The pregnancy glucose test, otherwise known as the disgusting orange drink of doom, is something literally no expectant mom looks forward to. It's unavoidable, but as you enter your third trimester it will very much become part of your pregnant reality. Fortunately, it's not an experience that needs to be shrouded in mystery, unless you want to remain blissfully unaware. So if you're feeling a little nervous about your test, I offer you the things I wish I'd known about the pregnancy glucose test, before I actually experienced it.
I've been pregnant three times, but I've only reached the 28-week mark with two of them, so I've had two glucose tests. Having been through it before made the second time a lot easier, but honestly, what surprised me most was how much things changed over the three years between them. With my daughter, I remember that I couldn't eat or drink anything and had to show up at the clinic first thing in the morning. It seemed like it took forever. This go around was quicker, and there was literally zero required of me in terms of preparation.
If I've learned anything, it's that the pregnancy glucose test itself is nothing to be scared of. So before you plant yourself in that waiting room, it may be helpful to know the following:
There Are Different Types
Yes, dear reader, and there are two tests you should be familiar with. Most likely, you will initially be given the glucose challenge screening test. You will be asked to drink a sweet liquid, and you'll have your blood drawn in an hour. Your results will tell your provider how effectively your body processes sugar.
If your challenge test comes back positive, you will likely have to do the glucose tolerance test. This test does require preparation, and you'll have your blood drawn multiple times (once to determine your baseline, then every hour for three hours). If your results are abnormal, your doctor or midwife may suggest dietary changes or diagnose gestational diabetes (GD).
You Don't Need To Fast
Yes! But keep in mind that this is true for the glucose challenge screening test only. It was a pleasant surprise for me when my midwife told me I didn't have to fast. I was more than happy not to have to deprive myself of food, especially given my low blood pressure.
If you're doing the tolerance test, you need to make sure you eat at least 150 mg of carbohydrates each of the three days before you begin fasting, which should be 14 hours prior your test. You can only have sips of water during that time. Given how different the preparation is, it's absolutely essential that you know which test you're having done.
There Are Flavor Options
OK, so the lab isn't exactly a Sonic drive-thru, but the fact that there were choices kind of blew my mind. I'm pretty sure the only flavor I was offered the first time was, um, "red." This go around, I got to choose between fruit punch, lemon-lime, and orange.
The glucose drink is never going to be delicious, but you can at least pick the least disgusting option for your own personal pregnancy taste buds.
It's Not That Much Liquid
Again, I'm speaking only to the glucose screening test. My drink was about the size of a small Gatorade, and it was clear. According to the Mayo Clinic, the glucose drink for the tolerance test is generally eight ounces and contains 100 mg of sugar (so it's just more concentrated).
I've had to chug way more of a significantly more vile "beverage" for both a CT scan and a colonoscopy, so downing the glucose drink in five minutes was honestly NBD.
I Couldn't Leave The Waiting Room
Every clinic is different, but from what I can tell, it's fairly standard practice not to be allowed to leave. Of course, you can use the bathroom, but it may be the one they use to collect urine specimens.
I don't remember whether or not I was confined the first time (probably because I wasn't accompanied by an impatient toddler), but I thought for sure we'd at least be able to walk around the hospital grounds. Nope. Good thing I had the foresight to download Curious George on Netflix.
If you have to do the longer test, might I recommend hourly care for any little munchkins that belong to you?
The Blood Draw Would Be The Worst Part
Sorry, but it's not a nice little finger prick. The technician will sterilize the area, tie an elastic band on your upper arm, insert a needle, and attach a tube to collect the sample. The screening test only requires one blood draw, but the tolerance test will leave you feeling like a pin cushion (your tech should alternate arms, though).
I'm no stranger to having my blood drawn, but I somehow always seem to get the newbies. Getting poked with a needle by someone who's still learning is way more uncomfortable than drinking what amounts to a little flat soda.
My Results Would Take So Long
According to Parents, glucose test results are available immediately. OK, sure, if you say so. Some clinics will post your labs to a secure website, but the lag time can vary from a few hours to a few days. Many providers will only call you if you fail the test.
I left the clinic with no information and didn't hear anything about it until my appointment with my midwife five days later. In my case, I suppose no news was good news, because I passed.
Different Practitioners Have Different Thresholds
How high is too high? Well, the answer may vary depending on your provider. Usually, according to BabyCenter, a screening of 200 mg/dL is enough for a diagnosis of gestational diabetes. If you're somewhere in the 140-200 window, you'll likely have to do to the tolerance test.
I ended up with a 127, which is considered normal, although it's a little closer to the lower threshold of 130 that some practitioners use.
I'd Be So Anxious
Waiting on results of any screening test during pregnancy can be nerve-wracking. With this particular test, it could mean a diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Treatment can involve everything from dietary changes to regular blood sugar monitoring to insulin injections. It's no joke.
This time around, I was really worried that I wouldn't pass. I didn't really know any better the first time, but I've since met several women who've had gestational diabetes, and although it's manageable, it's not exactly a party.
It's Really Important
According to the American Diabetes Association, up to 9.2 percent of women develop gestational diabetes. Although mothers may be asymptomatic, GD can cause complications for the baby, including excess growth, hypoglycemia, and difficulty breathing. Later on in life, they'll be at a higher risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
The glucose test, in either of its incarnations, is no one's idea of fun, but it's worth a little discomfort (and a literal bad taste your mouth) to know one way or another and ensure you've done everything in your power to keep you and your baby healthy.
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