Gestational Diabetes and the Glucose Tolerance Test

Wow, life is sure getting crazy now that I am in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy. Thanks to my husband for taking over much of the cooking duty lately, though it hasn’t given me much to write about. So I thought I would share my experience with the standard test that is given at this stage of pregnancy, the glucose tolerance test for gestational diabetes.

If you are wondering, gestational diabetes is what happens to some women during pregnancy when they temporarily take on symptoms of diabetes due to elevated blood sugar levels in pregnancy. Some women with gestational diabetes, they say, will go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. However, there is some controversy over whether this is really true or not, and many people get inaccurately classified as gestational diabetic.

I managed to avoid doing the traditional GD test, which is where a pregnant woman has to fast for 3 hours, then drink a bottle of sugar water with 50 grams of sugar in it, and then see how her body reacts. Yikes! How cruel is that? It’s enough to get anyone started on a path to diabetes right there, including the unborn child. Anyway, I knew that would be enough to send me into a sugar coma, but at the same time I was also curious as to whether my sugar sensitivity meant I actually had diabetic tendencies. So I agreed to take an alternative test, where I was allowed to eat a regular meal but had to incorporate the sugar into it. Okay. They said have a glass of juice with the meal and some kind of dessert or something with syrup, etc. I had 8 oz of pomegranate juice (which was over 30 grams right there) with wild salmon fish tacos & mango salsa from the farmers’ market and a small dark chocolate peanut butter cup for dessert. An hour after the meal, my blood glucose level was supposed to be under 140. It was 169. And I felt like I was tripping out. They said, let’s look at your diet. I said, I rarely ever eat sugar, and only in small amounts, because I know I don’t tolerate it well. And I never drink juice. What about white flour & refined carbs, they said. I already avoid those, I’m gluten free, I said. However, the fish tacos came with white corn tortillas. They said, you might have gotten too much, let’s repeat the test.

Great. This time, I avoided the juice, and tried to get more protein, whole grains & fiber. This is what I ate: 1 large apple (22g) with almond butter, breakfast sausage, quinoa pancakes (6g, though only because we ended up using sweetened almond milk, otherwise it’s much less) with 1 tsp raw honey (7g), and 6oz vanilla sheep yogurt (15g). Seems like a really healthy breakfast, doesn’t it? Hard to believe it’s got 50g of sugar. Anyway, I felt much better after this meal than the last, and thought for sure I would pass the test. Wrong – it was better, but my level was still 160. They said, let’s check it again an hour later. I waited around and started to feel a little shaky. The 2-hour glucose level was 64 (it shouldn’t go below 80). Wow, it looks like you might actually be a little hypoglycemic, they said. I know, I said, that’s what I’ve been telling you. They said, we could do another test, this time with 75 grams of sugar, and check you at one, two and three-hour intervals, and this would confirm hypoglycemia and rule out gestational diabetes. I said, are you kidding me??? I’m not putting my body through 75 more grams of sugar!!! Why don’t you check me after one of my normal meals and see how it is then?

So they sent me home with a blood sugar testing kit and I had to check myself for several days, both fasting (first thing in the morning) and after meals. That’s what I’ve been doing, and all my levels have come back normal. Now I almost wish I had declined to take the test in the first place, it was a very stressful week and I have been pricked and poked way too many times. But at least now I know that yes, I am hypoglycemic, and no, I do not tolerate sugar well, but thankfully I do know how to eat to regulate my blood sugar levels, and no one is going to label me a “gestational diabetic.”

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