All You Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes Testing
“You’ll have to drink this stuff that is like a really thick, really sweet Sprite.”
This was the first I ever heard about gestational diabetes testing, a screening recommended for all women during pregnancy. So, here are all the details on what it is, when it’s done, and what the results mean for you and your baby.
What is it?
Gestational diabetes is a condition that women who do not have diabetes already can develop during pregnancy. This means that your body isn’t making enough insulin during pregnancy, and your blood sugar levels will not be regulated like they should be. It can also result in high blood pressure, a larger-than-average baby, and trouble with low blood sugar.
This condition doesn’t have any signs or symptoms so that’s why healthcare providers regularly screen for it.
When is the test done and what does it mean?
Usually, in the second trimester between 24-28 weeks, your healthcare provider will ask you to schedule a longer appointment at your monthly check up. The screening will happen then.
If you are at a higher risk for diabetes, however, your screening might take place at one of your first appointments. Risk factors include:
You are overweight before pregnancy.
You have a family member with diabetes.
You had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy.
For the screening, you will drink a solution (it IS like a really thick, really sweet Sprite) followed by a blood test one hour later. If your blood sugar level is higher than expected (indicating that insulin isn't doing its job), you will most likely have a follow up test. This time, the solution will have even more sugar, and your blood will be checked over a longer period of time.
If this leads to a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, you will have continued blood sugar monitoring, be encouraged to make lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, be prescribed insulin.
Key lifestyle changes
Eating healthy foods and staying active are the two most important lifestyle changes to make if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Reach out to someone who specializes in diabetes care to find the right diet, one that is mostly composed of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
And, since exercise naturally lowers your blood sugar, make sure you are active each day. Walking, swimming, and vigorous household activities (like gardening) all count (and are especially good for pregnant women).
In the end, managing your blood sugar helps ensure a healthy mom and a healthy baby. Want to learn more about pregnancy and childbirth? Sign up for one of our classes!