When I turned 25 weeks pregnant, I went into my local medical center for my monthly routine checkup with my doctor. At my previous appointment, I was advised that I would need to come in at 24 weeks pregnant to complete a sugar water blood test, otherwise known as the glucose tolerance test. The glucose tolerance test is normally conducted during 24 weeks up to 28 weeks and I had heard many things about this test from other mummies to be.
What is the glucose tolerance test?
The glucose tolerance test is a test that examines how well your body produces insulin when it is introduced with large amounts of sugar or glucose. During pregnancy, your body produces hormones and in turn a high amount of sugar in the bloodstream.
This makes every pregnant woman at risk of Gestational Diabetes, which is a form of diabetes commonly developed during pregnancy. Although it is often only apparent during pregnancy, there is a risk that the mother will develop diabetes in the future if not properly looked after.
Failing the Glucose Tolerance Test
During my previous appointment with the doctor at 20 weeks pregnant, I was examined the glucose tolerance test and that I was not allowed to eat 2 hours prior to completing the test. I decided to come at 8:30am bright and early just as the medical center opened without having breakfast in order to complete the test after my ultrasound and checkup with the doctor.
Once we checked the baby and everything looked fine, I was ushered to the counter to complete the usual blood pressure test, weight scale and urine test. The nurse then provided me with a zip lock bag filled with sugar, a cup and a plastic stirrer. I was told to mix the sugar with cold water and drink the entire cup. Afterwards, I waited for 1 hour in the waiting area and then completed a urine sample and blood sample.
The nursed advised me that if there were any problems with my results, I will receive a call from the medical center. Otherwise, I can come in at my next monthly appointment in July as usual. I remember walking away from the glucose tolerance test feeling confident that I would pass it. Being vegetarian and pregnant, I found that I try my best to manage my diet well and focus on getting enough iron, calcium and protein. Though I don’t actively manage my sugar intake, I tend not to be interested in sweets but indulge in more savory options.
The next day we received a prompt call in the morning. It was the medical center bearing the bad news. We were told that I had failed the glucose tolerance test and that I will need to come in soon to speak with my doctor about my test results. We asked if I was too high or too low. The nurse replied and said too high. I was shocked. Although on Albie’s side, there is a long line of diabetes in the family and also my mother has diabetes, I never thought it would be an issue for me.
What Does Failing the Glucose Tolerance Test Mean?
Let’s be clear- Failing the glucose tolerance test does not confirm that you have Gestational Diabetes. However it does indicate that you may be at risk of having Gestational Diabetes. If you fail the initial glucose tolerance test, you will be required to complete further testing a week later to determine whether or not you do in fact have Gestational Diabetes. This is a 3 hour test, where they draw blood every hour. You’ll also have to fast the night before and get probed 4 times with the needle in the process. Definitely an unpleasant experience to say the least.
I took some time to look up information online and thought the worst happen; that I had Gestational Diabetes. Luckily, after reading articles and research online, I realized that failing the glucose tolerance test does not mean I have Gestational Diabetes for sure. It simply means I might be at risk. I read up on the 3 hour test to prepare for what’s to come next and cringed at the thought of doing it.
I also researched treatment options for Gestational Diabetes and how to properly manage your sugar levels during pregnancy. I found that increasing my exercise daily and managing my diet properly are the two best ways to prevent any side effects or problems from occurring throughout the pregnancy. This meant, I took a hard look at what I was eating daily and altered it to make it more healthier. You can also monitor the kick counts (the amount of times your baby kicks in 1 hour) to make sure that your baby remains healthy.
Am I at Risk of Gestational Diabetes?
1 in 10 women will be diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, making it a common experience for many women. When reading online, I found that in order to pass the glucose test, your results should be 140 and under. Anything above this number is a fail and indicates you may be a risk of Gestational Diabetes.
When I came in the next morning with my husband, we waited patiently to be called in to see our doctor. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, just thinking of it all made it harder to sleep. The doctor showed me my results. It was 143. I was relived and even more so when the doctor then proceeded to tell me that I was just a little over but nothing that would indicate that I would need to do further testing when proper management of my sugar levels will just do.
Our doctor advised me to keep an eye on my diet and exercise more. I asked if I would need to complete the 1 hour glucose tolerance test in the future and she said no. I was off the hook and felt so happy that I did not have to go through the 3 hour test but more importantly, that I was free from having Gestational Diabetes. As Albie said, I got off by the nip of my tit. LOL.
3 things I learnt from failing the glucose tolerance test
Although I technically failed the glucose tolerance test, the risk of Gestational Diabetes remains a low probability for me if I manage my diet and exercise throughout the remaining time of my pregnancy. I did however, learn a few things from the experience that I would like to share.
1. Carbohydrates can have lots of sugar!
One of the biggest things I crave and enjoyed in my pregnancy (but also in life generally) is carbohydrates. I’ve never been one to cut carbs completely out of my diet or have never been on any strict weight-loss diets where carbs were a no no. But I never realized the amount of sugar or glucose that can be found in many of my favorite foods like pizza, noodles and instant oats.
When I started doing the research on healthy meal plans for women who have Gestational Diabetes, I found that many of the foods I had readily enjoyed, particularly in the last few weeks were not as good as I originally thought. It’s advised not to cut out carbs completely and women are warned that changing eating habits doesn’t mean dieting to lose weight. It’s more about selecting good healthy carbs and have a well-balanced diet containing fruit, veggies and protein.
Though I prefer wholegrain and brown breads compared to the sweet and white bread options, it did made me think twice about having pizza every fortnight or so and chowing down on noodles without looking at the amount of carbohydrates it contains. I was so focused on maintaining a good level of iron, calcium and protein, that I didn’t realize the importance of managing my sugar levels too.
2. Understanding Low GI foods
This leads to the next lesson I learnt throughout this process. I have come to understand low and high GI and how this plays an importance in sugar intake. Carbohydrates that contain low GI is what you want to eat more of and high GI foods are foods that you want to stay away from or eat occasionally. And when I say occasionally, I mean very little of throughout the pregnancy.
Personally, I’ve never really understood or cared much about low and high GI foods. But as I quickly realized, this can really affect the sugar levels and most of which are items that are not sweet like chocolates. There the types of cereals, breads, noodles and even fruits we choose to eat.
In case you are looking for some clear and easy way of understanding all of this more and the types of foods you should be eating, here’s a link to an information sheet that I found most useful.
3. Risk of Diabetes in Later Life
As we ended our appointment with the doctor, she did mention that I have a tendency to have diabetes in the future and will need to review this in my 50’s. This was a red flag to me and I take this experience with relief that both baby and me are going to be fine but as a warning to always eat healthy and maintain a well-balanced diet even after pregnancy. It was definitely a good wake-up call even at 25 weeks pregnant.
I guess in a way the glucose tolerance test is an good indicator not only for the duration of your pregnancy but also as a test for diabetes in your lifetime. It’s something that I will keep in mind throughout the rest of my life not just in my pregnancy.