Pregnant woman talking to her doctor

What to Know About Getting a Glucose Test During Pregnancy

While reading through books and searching the Internet during your pregnancy, you may come across several disorders, conditions, or afflictions that could happen. Most of these are nothing to be concerned about and only occur in very rare situations, but gestational diabetes is a real threat. Gestational diabetes is fairly common and easily manageable when it’s caught early. When left untreated, gestational diabetes can lead to high blood pressure, preeclampsia, macrosomia, perinatal depression, premature birth, and more. That’s why undergoing a glucose test is so important. For more information, here’s what to know about getting a glucose test during pregnancy.

What is a Glucose Screening Test?

A glucose screening test is a routine pregnancy test that determines the presence of gestational diabetes. It tests for glucose levels that are higher than normal, which can be a determining factor in whether or not you’ll develop gestational diabetes. It can also be used to diagnose current cases of gestational diabetes. A glucose screening test is usually done between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy, but your doctor may suggest you undergo the test earlier if you have certain risk factors or if you had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.

The Importance of Undergoing a Glucose Test During Pregnancy

Gestational diabetes is a condition that affects how your cells react to and use glucose present in your bloodstream. Like type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes can lead to high blood sugar, which can be dangerous for your pregnancy and the health of your growing baby. If you notice any signs of gestational diabetes or have any of the risk factors listed below, getting a glucose test is the best way to properly monitor and treat your condition.


Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Unfortunately, many women don’t experience any signs or symptoms of gestational diabetes. This is why undergoing the glucose test is so important. If you do experience symptoms, you may notice signs of extreme thirst, fatigue, frequent, large-volume urination, sugar in urine, ongoing bladder, vaginal, or skin infections, blurred vision, or nausea. See your doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.


Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes

Many women who develop gestational diabetes have no risk factors. However, there are some reasons that your doctor may want to perform a glucose test earlier than 24 weeks, especially if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have had gestational diabetes before
  • Had a large baby in previous pregnancies
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a history of heart disease
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Have impaired glucose tolerance
  • Are in an ethnic group with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes (Hispanic American, African American, Native American, South or East Asian, or Pacific Islander)
  • Have a family member with diabetes
  • Using steroids
  • Having multiples
  • Have had a previous miscarriage


Unfortunately, the direct cause of gestational diabetes is still unknown, but it’s likely connected with pregnancy hormones. Sometimes, pregnancy hormones can reduce the effectiveness of insulin, which can therefore increase blood sugar levels in the placenta. Gestational diabetes can be dangerous for both mom and baby, which is why it’s important to undergo a glucose test during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all women be screened for gestational diabetes. However, if you exhibit any signs or symptoms have the above risk factors, getting tested is even more important.

Preparing for a Glucose Test During Pregnancy

If your doctor tells you that you need to undergo a glucose test, don’t worry. It’s a routine screening that’s fairly easy to prepare for. How you will prepare for your glucose test depends on the type of test your doctor is going to perform.

How is a Glucose Test Performed?

There are a few different ways that a glucose test can be performed. The two most common are using the glucose challenge test and the glucose tolerance test. Preparation is different for each, so make sure that you follow your doctor’s instructions based on which you will be receiving.


Glucose Challenge Test

A glucose challenge test is also commonly referred to as the 1-hour glucose test. During this time, you’ll drink a sweet drink called glucola. Many people find this to be similar to Gatorade. After you finish the glucola, you’ll need to wait an hour before having your blood drawn. Your doctor will then look at your blood sugar levels. If it’s high, you’ll need to get a follow up test—likely the glucose tolerance test. The glucose challenge test does not require any changes to your normal diet or routine, so preparation is very simple.


Glucose Tolerance Test

The glucose tolerance test is often preformed as a follow up, but sometimes doctors will skip the glucose challenge test and start with this. This test requires more strenuous preparations. You’ll need to fast for about 8 to 14 hours (8 hours before and continued fasting throughout), but you are allowed to consume small sips of water. When you arrive at your doctor’s office, your blood will be taken. It will then be taken again at the 1-hour mark, at 2 hours, and at 3 hours. If your doctor finds that two or more of the blood samples specify high glucose, you’ll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

If your test results are abnormal, don’t worry. With the proper treatment and testing, you can still have a healthy pregnancy with gestational diabetes. You will need to see your doctor more frequently to undergo nonstress tests and fetal movement counts. You’ll also need to monitor your blood sugar levels, eat a healthy diet, and make sure that you’re getting enough physical activity. If you need to take insulin for diabetes, make sure that you do so exactly as your doctor tells you and never start or stop taking any medication without discussing it first.

Lowering Your Blood Glucose Levels

Whether you’re at risk for developing gestational diabetes, have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, or are just trying to make sure that your pregnancy is as healthy as possible, lowering your blood glucose levels is important. Here are some healthy lifestyle changes you can make to help.


Reduce Simple or Refined Carbohydrates

Eating too many simple carbohydrates can cause unhealthy spikes in your blood sugar, which can be harmful for your developing baby. Try to reduce simple or refined carbohydrates and if you’re having a craving, do some research on how to find a healthy alternative.


Increase Complex Carbohydrates

Not all carbs are bad. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest. This means that the breakdown of glucose occurs more slowly, over an elongated period of time. This can help your body stabilize blood sugar and feel full for longer. Swap out simple carbs for complex carbs by increasing your consumption of whole grains, beans, quinoa, and starchy vegetables.


Eat Balanced Meals

The best wy to stay healthy is to eat a balanced diet filled with plenty of vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. While fruits are usually included in a balanced diet, those with gestational diabetes need to be wary. There are certain fruits that you should only eat in moderation due to the high sugar and simple carb complex. A list of gestational diabetes approved fruits can be found here.


Be Active and Exercise

Exercising has a direct correlation with your blood sugar levels and helps you maintain a healthy pregnancy. Depending on the intensity, your blood sugar can be lowered and stabilized from 4 to 8 hours following a workout. Consider going on a walk after consuming meals to help digestion and avoid any spikes. As always, if you’re thinking about a new exercise routine, speak to your doctor before getting started.


Gain a Healthy Amount of Weight

You are going to gain weight during pregnancy—there’s no question about that. However, a lot of women succumb to cravings and therefore, end up gaining unhealthy amounts of weight. Gaining about 20 to 25 pounds throughout the course of your pregnancy is healthy for a woman who has an average starting weight. This weight should be gained in increments, so talk to your doctor to make sure that you’re in the right zone for your trimester.

Some women love pregnancy, while others can’t wait for it to be over. Regardless of which side you stand on, staying healthy and monitoring your body for any signs of distress is essential to the healthy development of your baby. If you think you may have gestational diabetes or know that you have risk factors for developing it, talk to your doctor today. There are ways for you to prevent gestational diabetes before it occurs and treatment options if it does. To help supplement your journey of becoming a new mom, don’t forget to order an insurance covered breast pump from Byram Healthcare today.