Pregnancy causes women to undergo many physical changes, driven mostly by drastic hormonal shifts. Prenatal visits and ultrasounds are not all the screenings and tests you can expect during pregnancy. The glucose test is something else that your doctor will recommend.
Around the 24th week of pregnancy, women are routinely tested for gestational diabetes using a glucose test.
There are two main glucose tests in pregnancy: a glucose screening test and a glucose tolerance test.
Some glucose tests require women to fast beforehand, while others do not.
If your initial glucose test returns abnormal, your doctor may require further testing.
Typically, gestational diabetes can be managed with diet and exercise, but some women will have to take insulin to keep blood sugar under control.
This test looks for something called gestational diabetes. There are different types of glucose tests, including glucose screening and tolerance tests.
What is a glucose test during pregnancy?
Glucose tests are administered during pregnancy to test for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs when your body uses insulin less effectively during pregnancy.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps to regulate blood sugar by lowering it. When insulin isn't used properly by the body, blood sugar can become high when you eat certain foods.
Glucose screening test vs. glucose tolerance test
The initial glucose test that you'll have done during pregnancy is the glucose screening test. You'll have to drink a sugary liquid for a glucose screening test and then have your blood sugar tested an hour later.
This is to see how your body tolerates something high in sugar. If your blood sugar returns to normal, you won't have to undergo further testing. If it returns as abnormal, you'll have to have a glucose tolerance test.
Glucose tolerance tests are a little more involved. This glucose test requires you to drink a sugary liquid on an empty stomach and then have your blood sugar tested every hour for three hours.
When should you take a glucose test during pregnancy?
Gestational diabetes usually develops around 24 weeks of pregnancy, so testing is recommended between 24 and 28 weeks. If you have risk factors that place you at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, your doctor may want to test you sooner.
You can decline your glucose test if you don't want to do it, but this is not recommended.
How to prepare for a glucose test during pregnancy
Your doctor will give you specific instructions on preparing for your glucose test. Typically, glucose screening tests do not require fasting, while glucose tolerance tests do. So, how to best prepare for your glucose test during pregnancy depends on the specific type of test you will be doing.
If you need to fast before your test, you'll want to schedule your visit early in the day and make sure not to eat anything in the morning. It is good to schedule this type of visit in the morning so that you don't have to fast too late into the day.
If you are taking a glucose test that does not require fasting, you should eat breakfast in the morning. If you go to a glucose test on an empty stomach, it can throw off glucose readings and affect results. Eat a balanced meal the morning of your glucose test (if your doctor has informed you that you can eat before it).
What to eat for glucose test during pregnancy
Generally, you'll want to eat foods that are lower in sugar and carbs when preparing for a glucose test during pregnancy. Lean towards foods that contain fat and protein, such as eggs or meat. If you are going to eat carbohydrates, make sure to eat complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbs.
Complex carbohydrates are foods like whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, fruit, and legumes. You'll also want to make sure your meal contains a mix of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Simply carbohydrates are broken down more quickly by the body, causing the blood sugar to increase quickly and then rapidly drop.
Some meal examples that you could try before your glucose test include:
- Unsweetened yogurt with fruit
- Whole grain oatmeal with low-fat milk
- Scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast
- Whole grain toast topped with avocado or nut butter
Ideally, you'd want to avoid eating highly sugary foods or refined grains before your glucose tests, such as doughnuts, white bread, or processed foods containing corn syrup.
Always follow your doctor's recommendations when preparing for a glucose test. They can provide more particular guidelines on whether or not you can eat before your glucose test and offer ideas on what foods would be best.
What happens if you fail your glucose test during pregnancy?
If your blood sugar returns abnormal on your initial glucose screen test, your doctor will ask you to come back for a glucose tolerance test. This more involved test involves having you fast in the morning.
You'll have to drink a sugary beverage in your doctor's office once you arrive, and your blood sugar will be checked every hour for three hours. This test gives your doctor a more detailed look into just how abnormal your blood sugars are.
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, your doctor will help you develop a unique treatment plan for your situation. You will likely be taught how to check your blood sugar at home and instructed to check it regularly to ensure it doesn't get too high.
Some women can manage gestational diabetes simply with adjustments to their diet and lifestyle. Eating a more well-rounded diet and exercising regularly may be all you need to keep your blood well-managed. Sometimes, lifestyle modifications are insufficient to manage gestational diabetes, and taking insulin is required.
A balanced diet
Women can develop gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. A healthy, balanced diet can help prevent gestational diabetes and prevent a spike in blood sugar.