Prev Next

Your Pregnancy and What You Need to Know About Glucose Tests

By Kelcey Kintner

If you’re pregnant, then sometime between 24 and 28 week mark, your doctor will have you come in for a Glucose Challenge Test (GCT).

This is a test to screen whether you might have gestational diabetes, a high blood sugar condition that starts or is diagnosed during pregnancy and will need to be treated.

As far as tests go, this is a whole lot easier than your calculus midterm exam in high school.  You basically drink something that tastes like grossly sweet soda (which is much better cold) and an hour later, you’ll have your blood drawn. Some doctors will give you the liquid to take at home and others will require you to drink it in the office.

Your doctor just wants to make sure you are processing sugar properly.  A high level in your blood may indicate that your body is not.

Now I had no problem with this test during my first and second pregnancies so when it came to my third, I declared myself a glucose champion (I’m sure the trophy is around here somewhere) and I wasn’t concerned at all. Which is why I thought nothing of consuming a gigantic sugary scone before my Glucose Challenge Test.

Do not do this. This is a very bad idea because I failed the test.  On the upside, I did get a B in calculus.

If like me, you fail your Glucose Challenge Test, don’t panic. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have gestational diabetes (remember, it’s just a screening test), but you do now have to take a 3 hour Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). If you already have children at home, think of it as a 3 hour getaway to surf Facebook and Twitter without interruption. And this getaway comes with a refreshing cocktail! Okay, the drink stinks but at least you’re getting a little alone time.

With the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT), you will have to fast beforehand and that super sweet drink (extra-concentrated) can potentially make you quite queasy. In fact, it made me very nauseous. I had my own personal mantra of, “Don’t throw-up. Don’t throw-up. Focus on Twitter. Focus on Facebook. Please don’t throw-up” because I had no interest in repeating the experience. Every hour, your blood will be drawn so they can monitor how you are processing sugar over a span of time.

It’s important to know that if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes (3 to 10% of all pregnancies), you can still go on to have a healthy pregnancy and the condition will likely go away after you give birth. But while pregnant, you will need to make changes to your diet, add daily exercise and possibly take medication to keep your blood sugar levels under control. You will also have to monitor your glucose levels from home. Yes, it sounds like a lot but it’s all vital for the health of you and your baby.

I’m currently pregnant (4th time around) and next week, I’m headed to my doctor’s office for my initial Glucose Challenge Test. I’m definitely skipping the scone and my doctor recommend that I cut back on sugar and carbohydrates 72 hours before the screening test. I think that man is severely underestimating my addiction to Whoppers and Junior Mints but I’m going to do my very best. Fingers crossed for me and all you other pregnant ladies out there.

Note: Did your doctor order a 2-hour Oral Glucose Tolerance Test? It’s very possible. In 2011, the American Diabetes Association adopted guidelines by the International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Group and started recommending the 2-hour test as a replacement for the Glucose Challenge Test and 3-hour Glucose Tolerance Test.  If you fail the 2 hour test, you are simply diagnosed with gestational diabetes and treated accordingly. No need for a second test.

But for now the American College of Obstetrics has stayed with their current guidelines of a 1-hour screen test (GCT), followed by the 3 hour test (GTT) to confirm/ deny gestational diabetes, believing it protects maternal and newborn health, while keeping health care costs down.

If you have any questions about these different glucose tests, don’t hesitate to talk to your OBGYN.

Kelcey Kintner
About the Author

Kelcey Kintner

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog 

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog The Mama Bird Diaries and writes for the Huffington Post. You can follow her @mamabirddiaries or on Facebook. She’s still trying to fit 5 kids on a Vespa. 

icon icon
chat bubble icon

Comments

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Rose
Guest
Rose

My midwife did prescribe the 2 hour test, and also following a low-carb/low-sugar diet for the 72 hours before.  They said they prefer it because it seems to get more women to pass (including the borderline ones).  I admit, I was not great about the diet (I tried, I tried), but passed with flying colors.  But not without also feeling kind of queasy throughout.  Blech.

Myriam
Guest
Myriam

I am a Type 1 diabetic, and I would like to clarify a statement in this article. If you are not diabetic, your pancreas will produce exactly the right amount of insulin to balance out your sugar/carb intake nad your glucose level will not rise above a certain level. So whether you had a scone or not, if you’re not insulin resistant or deficient(two causes of diabetes), your glucose level will be normal. However, it is necommended to cut down on the extra sugar before the test to help your doctor figure out how severe the diabetes might be. The… Read more »

Myriam
Guest
Myriam

sorry for the typos, I am writing this on a small screen…

Kelcey Kintner
Guest
Kelcey

Great info Miriam. Although my doctor definitely thought the scone played a part in me failing the first glucose test.

Myriam
Guest
Myriam

The first glucose test in not really precise and can indeed be “influenced” by too many sweets!

I would like to add that diabetes, although a hard diagnosis, can be well managed. It is a condition that forces you to be healthy (food, sleep, stress, exercice), and a good reminder that moderation is key in everything, pregnant or not, diabectic or not!

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Thanks, Myriam. We love our smart readers.

Sora
Guest
Sora

“if you’re not insulin resistant or deficient(two causes of diabetes), your glucose level will be normal.” So, the thing is, pregnancy — in and of itself — causes insulin resistance. All pregnant women are more insulin resistant than they were before pregnancy. A quote from a relevant article: “Human pregnancy is characterized by a series of metabolic changes that promote adipose tissue accretion in early gestation, followed by insulin resistance and facilitated lipolysis in late pregnancy. In early pregnancy, insulin secretion increases, while insulin sensitivity is unchanged, decreased, or may even increase (1,2). However, in late gestation, maternal adipose tissue… Read more »

Nicole
Guest

That’s interesting that there is a 2-hour glucose test now. When I was pregnant with my daughter (she’s a little over three now), I ended up having gestational diabetes. I barely failed the screening test (by, I think, 2 mg/dL). In fact, my doctor was more conservative with the numbers, in that her cutoff point for normal blood sugar levels was 5 mg/dL less than what some other doctors used. Had I seen another doctor, I might never have been diagnosed. When I did the three hour test, again, I barely failed, but I failed nonetheless. When I started monitoring… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Interesting, Nicole! If you read more on the 2-hour test, that is exactly why they are recommending it. In fact, the American Diabetes Association says that under their new diagnostic criteria, as much as 18% of pregnancies may be identified with gestational diabetes. Here is the best explanation I could find on their new testing recommendation:
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&ved=0CEYQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.michigan.gov%2Fdocuments%2Fmdch%2FGDM-in-Michigan-2011-Update3_369880_7.pdf&ei=loQnUdvdNYnJrAefioDIDw&usg=AFQjCNEMXpy-9-GganNN-9R6Vk-Gca8kaw&bvm=bv.42768644,d.bmk

Ally
Guest
Ally

I have never been able to successfully take this test. I’m also pregnant with #4 (yea!) and I’m guessing it will go like the other three and I’ll throw up around the clock all nine months. I tried the test at least twice with the other pregnancies and was never able to keep it down. I had no symptoms of diabetes so my doctor just let it go. 

Angel
Guest
Angel

I had to do botht he 1 hour and 3 hour glucose screens with my son 4 1/2 years ago. I was borderline on the 1 hour so I had to do the 3 hour. I of the 3 blood draws one draw at 2 hours was 2 over. so I was declared to have Gestational diabetes. I was able to control it with out medication by diet alone. I am now pregnant and have just completed my 1 hour screening. It came back elevated but not extremely high so my Dr. is classifing me as gestational diabetic again since… Read more »

Michele
Guest
Michele

I recommend NOT doing a prenatal checkup right after drinking the glucose. I did and ended up having to spend the whole day getting a non-stress test because my baby’s heart rate was so high. (And she was just fine.)

Myriam
Guest
Myriam

They do recommend drinking a glass of orange juice to “wake your baby up” if you’re worried about them not moving!!! That’ probably why!

IrishCream
Guest
IrishCream

It’s good to remember that gestational diabetes isn’t a result of eating a few too many sweets before the test. It’s a complex condition involving the interplay of your endocrine system and all those fun pregnancy hormones. Being on the heavier side pre-pregnancy can make you more susceptible, but so can having a family history of diabetes, especially if your own mom’s blood sugar levels were high while she was pregnant with you! I had GDM with both my pregnancies, and having to be strict with my diet and go for extra check-ups was a drag for sure, but of… Read more »

Kelcey Kintner
Guest
Kelcey

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s really important that people know gestational diabetes can be managed. I hope I didn’t imply that you get gestational diabetes from eating too many sweets. Only that my doctor thought it skewed the results, forcing me to take the 2nd test which I passed with no problem.

Autumn
Guest
Autumn

When I did the test, I was able to chug the stuff (which would have been great with some club soda, lime and vodka. . .my clinic had the orange variety) and then wobble to a follow up ultrasound.  The kiddo was wiggly!  

I “Passed” by one point.  If we have another, not having the blackberry oatmeal before.  

Mona
Guest
Mona

Good information- I just wanted to add that maternal age can affect GD as well. My first pregnancy (at 34- just squeaking in under the “advanced” category), I passed this test with flying colors (my OB’s words, lol). But my second pregnancy (at 38), I failed both the initial screening and the follow up / three hour test. I’d never had blood sugar issues, so I was quite surprised and a bit distressed about it. But off to the endocrinologist, four X / day monitoring, low sugar / high protein diet I went. And it was all fine. The endocrinologist… Read more »

Mona
Guest
Mona

(sorry, premature publish)
Anyhow, the diet really helped minimize weight gain those last few months and taught me a thing or two about eating better. So, a diagnosis, while a bit unnerving, can work out just fine. I do still test my blood sugar on occasion per doctor’s orders, but have not had any further issues (baby is now 16months and also doing great).

Leah
Guest
Leah

My doctor forgot to mention that they’d be checking for antibodies because of my Rh-negativeness when they did the glucose blood screen. This meant hanging around the doctor’s office for three hours instead of one, and as I had post-appointment plans, my blood pressure became elevated, causing concern about preeclampsia. THE MORAL: If you’re RH negative, realize this may be a longer appointment.

Rana
Guest
Rana

That’s really good to know. I knew about the importance of Rhogam, both at 28 weeks and if there’s any signficant bleeding, but hadn’t heard about the antibody check during the glucose test.

leslie
Guest
leslie

My OB’s office requires the 2-hour test for everyone now (they were still doing the 1-hour when I was pregnant with DD in 2010). Talk about a whole different experience. With the 1-hr, I didn’t have to fast, and I was able to drink the orange stuff at home before going in to have my blood drawn once. Easy Peezy. This time I had to fast from midnight the night before, drink the orange stuff on a very empty stomach at the OB’s office, sit around for an hour, have my blood drawn, and then sit around for another hour… Read more »

allisonjayne
Guest
allisonjayne

I think I’m the only pregnant lady who actually liked the orange drink. What can I say, I love orange pop and I tend to abstain from pop in general – and didn’t drink any while pregnant – so it was like a treat! Ok I’m a weirdo. I took the 3 hour test to start because my sister had GD with all of her pregnancies, so I decided I’d rather start with the 3 hour test rather than have to do 2. Passed with no problem. I actually didn’t mind having to wait the 3 hours…like you said, it… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

i liked the orange drink, too!

landry
Guest
landry

drink it with a straw. 
Its much less gross going down since it doesn’t go over your tongue. A friend suggested it to me and the nurse was mightily impressed with my ingenuity. (I fess’d up and told her that it was recommended by a friend) 

Mary
Guest
Mary

I know I’m late to the party, but, here’s my experience with the 1 hour glucose test. My doctor said to eat normal, but nothing sugary that day, since my test would be in the afternoon.  My Dr’s office also does email notification of new electronic medical records when lab results are in.  3 days after I got an email, there were unofficial results that I passed.  Fabulous. More than 2 weeks after that a nurse called me and said, your Glucose results are in, and you need to go immediately into diabetinc counseling your results were so crazy high.… Read more »

ashley michelle p
Guest
ashley michelle p

What is in the glucose drink? does anybody know

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

I had a lot of difficulty with the standard test the first time around – failed the 1-hour and nearly failed the 3-hour, even though I did NOT have gestational diabetes.  On my second pregnancy, my hospital-based midwives offered me the alternative of a “casual” glucose test.  I go in for a blood draw (at least an hour after eating normally) once a week for 4 consecutive weeks, and if the results are consistently normal, then the hospital endocrinologists give me the okay.  It’s a pain in the butt to have more blood draws, but it’s working really well for… Read more »