Pregnancy Glucose Test, Gestational Diabetes Screening, Alternative Methods

As you already know, I opted out of drinking Glucola (with the approval of my OBGYN) during my second trimester. This drink is used as the standard screening method for the “glucose intolerance test”. I’m not skipping it, I just chose to complete an alternative & much more accurate screening method, instead.

If you haven’t yet read PART ONE of this series, I opted out, mostly due to the terrible ingredients. Not to mention the drink also contains a very large amount of sugar guaranteed to make me sick. Plus, the research I’ve done has convinced me how inaccurate and unreliable this outdated method actually is. Which is why I decided to try something different. As always, I encourage you to do your own research before going along with the test.

You should know, it has also been documented to cause an array of side effects according to Aviva Romm, MD. These side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness and fatigue most commonly.

What you need to know about the Standard Glucose Tolerance Test:

As I discussed in my last post, this test is specific to the second trimester of pregnancy and is typically completed around week 24 to 28. This has been found to be the time when most women begin to develop glucose intolerance issues, that can harm the baby. No matter your health history, it is truly critical that you comply with this screening, using whichever method you choose. No cutting corners 🙂

During pregnancy, the hormones from your placenta effect your body’s ability to use insulin, as efficiently as it previously could. Researches believe this adaption developed back when food was scarce, in order to ensure proper nutrition for the growing baby inside of you. However, modern day conveniences such as fast + processed food – have made access to food calories extremely convenient, therefore increasing the incidence of pregnant women developing gestational diabetes – greater than ever before.

The Standard Method:

If you choose to drink ‘glucola’, and you PASS your glucose check an hour later – be sure to drink PLENTY OF WATER for the remainder of the day to ward off some of the effects and help balance out the surge of sugar you consumed.

If you FAIL, and your sugar remains ‘too high’ (greater than 140mg/dL) after consuming it – you’ll have to remain in the office unable to eat or drink. You will then drink another 100g of glucose and wait around for 3 hours until they can do a second sugar check.

If you fail the second test, you’ll be deemed “HIGH RISK” for developing gestational diabetes (GDM) and will be sent home with a glucometer to measure your blood sugar closely after every meal, reporting the results back to your physician regularly and addressing your glucose intolerance accordingly, if diet and exercise isn’t enough.

*SIDE NOTE: If you ‘FAIL” and are told you’re at risk of developing GDM – it doesn’t mean that you actually will. It’s common for alot of people to FAIL the glucose screening test, especially if their body isn’t used to consuming large amounts of sugar at one time (like mine). This is totally normal, and after a few days of eating regularly and checking your blood sugar at home – you’ll be able to confirm whether or not your body is able to adequately balance your blood sugar regularly, after meals. Don’t get discouraged, It’s what’s best for you and baby anyway. Just look at it as an opportunity to learn more about your body and how it’s reacting to the food that you’re eating.

That being said, if you choose to ‘opt for an alternative method’ – Not all OBGYN’s will be open to discussing other options, but I highly encourage you to start the conversation anyways.

The more prepared you are with the information you need to defend your choice – the easier the conversation will be.

Alternative Screening Methods You Should Know About:

These are the most common methods I was able to find, but I always encourage you to do your own research and keep looking until you find the method that works best for you & that is preferably scientifically backed:

  • Eat 28 Standard Jellybeans, drink 16 ounces of orange juice, or find a natural soda with 50g of sugar
  • Eat Regularly That Day – Without Altering Your Routine
  • Assess your Hb(A1c) via blood work
    • pronounced Hemoglobin – A – ONE – C
  • Use a Glucometer at Home for One Week
  • Buy Pure Dextrose Powder (add the equivalent serving size of 50 grams to a glass of water)
    • There will not be any information below about this method as I could not find any dextrose powder available to purchase that was organic and non-gmo verified. All of the options currently available are derived from corn. If you find one, let me know – and I’ll update this post.

keep reading to understand the methods, pros and cons around each option.

Eat 28 Standard Jellybeans

METHOD:

  • This has been deemed equivalent to 50g of simple carbohydrate & is widely accepted as an alternative to drinking glucola. *I highly recommend seeking out naturally colored & flavored ones versus your standard package found at most drugstores (aka check the ingredients).
  • The method is the same as mentioned above after consuming Glucola & you must consume the jellybeans within 10 minutes, one hour prior to the blood glucose check.

PROS:

  • It’s convenient as long as you pass.
  • The earlier your appointment the better, so you don’t have to fast all day.
  • This test has been scientifically studied & you can read the research HERE.
  • But, you should know: They deemed the test to be sufficiently equivalent to the standard 50g glucose challenge, however they do not recommend that you consume jelly beans a second time if you “fail” the initial screening.

CONS:

  • My best friend opted for this option a few years ago – she was shocked at how hard it was to chew all 28 jelly beans within 10 minutes, just something to consider.
  • If your blood sugar is higher than 140mg/dL after one hour of consuming the Jelly Beans, your doctor will then ask you to consume the 75g or 100g glucose drink anyway, in order to complete the second part of the screening.

*In the list above, I had mentioned juice & soda as an option as well. The problem with juice – is that it’s not pure “glucose” and studies have shown that the combination of fructose and glucose can affect the result of the test differently. I read that you would have to consume a serving size of juice with 75-80g of sugar in order to consume 50 ish grams of dextrose. Not ideal, but the ingredients are much simpler than drinking glucola & there’s a chance your doctor may still be willing to allow you to choose this method. Never hurts to ask.

*As far as natural soda goes, it’s a similar situation as most will be sweetened with cane sugar – which is scientifically known as a molecule that is also a combination of fructose + glucose. Long story short – there isn’t enough evidence to show that these alternatives are equivalent, nor effective enough alternative testing methods.

Eat Regularly That Day – Without Altering Your Routine

METHOD:

  • Consume lunch or breakfast approximately one hour before your appointment time & check your blood sugar in office

PROS:

  • This is by far, the most convenient alternative and would come with the least amount of side effects.

CONS:

  • There’s a chance you’ll “tweak” what you eat based on knowing that you’ll be screened – which can alter the accuracy of the test. Your doctor knows this – which is why most physicians won’t agree to this method.
  • It’s also not a fool proof method as you’re most likely unaware of how many grams of sugar you consumed and a “normal result” might overlook an underlying glucose intolerance condition based on what you eat.
  • A one time blood sugar check after one meal, is not definitive & is completely unreliable in my opinion.

Assess Your Hb(A1c) via Blood Work

(pronounced Hemoglobin – A – ONE – C)

I asked my doctor to check this blood marker at the beginning of my pregnancy because I had read that anything below 5.45 is considered Normal and is a good marker for a very low chance that you would develop glucose intolerance or gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

METHOD:

  • You can ask to have this checked at your first appointment early on in pregnancy to establish your baseline and then again during the second trimester – as it shows your “average blood sugar” level over the past 3 months.

PROS:

  • Accurate and reliable blood marker used by most physicians to diagnose diabetes in the regular patient population.

CONS:

  • It looks at your ‘average’ blood sugar levels over the past 3 months – which means you’ll be looking backwards at your 24-28 week appointment – and it has been shown that most people don’t begin to develop glucose intolerance until around week 24 and beyond.

*Some doctors may still require you to do the screening no matter how “Normal” your level is, my doctor gave me the option, as she actually wasn’t concerned about my blood sugar at all based on how “normal” my HbA1c was. I chose to be extra careful and do an additional screening method anyways, mentioned next. Gestational Diabetes (GDM) isn’t something I would want to overlook as there are plenty of birth challenges, abnormal growth developments and increased chances of miscarrying if GDM goes undiagnosed.

Use a Glucometer at Home for One Week

This is the method I chose to complete, because after all of my research – I also believe it to be the most accurate.

METHOD:

  • This is the same thing you’ll have to do if you FAIL the standard glucose test in office – so you might as well skip the hard part and learn a little bit more about how the food you’re eating is affecting your body from the get go.
  • Interested in this method? Your doctor can write you a prescription for a glucometer & it should be covered by your insurance. I’m impatient, and I ordered my own. This is the one I bought on Amazon and it cost around $30 for all of the supplies, travel case, batteries included. I brought it to my 24 week appointment and my doctor approved it. So, this is the glucometer I used.
  • Using the glucometer, you will need to check your blood sugar every morning when you wake up before your first meal, and then again 1-2 hours after each. (snacks don’t count.)

PROS:

  • Its thorough & comprehensive.
  • You’ll learn the most about your body this way, without having to consume alot of sugar or other terrible ingredients in one setting.
  • It’s the most accurate method.

CONS:

  • It’s less convenient, it takes time, & it’s a week long, four times a day commitment
  • Depending on how comfortable you are with the supplies – it might be a little complicated.
  • You do have to use a small lancet device to get a small amount of blood to check each time. The needle is microscopic, but this might be challenging for some people.
  • If you have a history of disordered eating or tend to become obsessive with monitoring your food intake, calorie counting, etc … I don’t think this method would be best for you as some people may become obsessive with the numbers on the screen in correlation to what they ate. This is not the goal of this test.

I honestly didn’t have any issue with remembering to do it, nor did the small needle pricks bother me. & Certain days my blood sugars were slightly higher than others based on a multitude of factors. I just wrote them down and moved on. & I actually felt more empowered, well informed and well aware of how my body was reacting to the food that I was eating and I completed the week without an issue. Goal blood sugars, of what you should be aiming for – listed below:

Blood Sugar Monitoring Ranges + Goals:

Fasting (when you wake up, before eating): less than 85mg/dL

1 hour after meals: less than 140 mg/dL

2 hours after meals: less than 120 mg/dL

*It’s ok to have a few readings be slightly higher than what is considered ‘normal’, but ideally – you’ll want to see the majority of your glucometer readings remain within range. & It might be helpful to note the times you take them and what you ate that day (but it’s not necessary.)

A few things that might affect your blood sugar readings & may cause them to be ‘higher than normal’ include:

  • increased stress in your life
  • being sick
  • vomiting
  • high carb meal or indulging in something sweet too often
  • being dehydrated, not drinking enough water
  • drinking too much caffeine

After you’ve monitored your results for one week (be sure to write them all down) – discuss your results with your doctor to decide whether or not any adjustments to your diet need to be made, or whether or not you need to continue monitoring your blood sugars everyday.

When I was done with my week, I sent my doctor an electronic message in our online portal and she replied within the day to let me know that I “passed” the screening and she would happily mark my chart as negative for gestational diabetes. Which means, I no longer need to monitor my blood sugar daily – but to be honest with you, I’ll probably still check it every now and then just to learn a little bit more about my body.

At some point soon, I also plan to film a quick video showing you how easy it is to use the glucometer. It’ll become PART THREE of this series once it’s filmed.

Comment Below if I left anything out or if you have any questions I didn’t cover.

You can read Part One of this series HERE.

& If you love learning more about alternatives to what we should be doing when it comes to our health, nutrition, and products we’re using in our homes – you’d probably love to listen in on weekly episodes of The Critical Conversations Podcast. You can check out show notes & additional information HERE. It’s available to listen on iTunes & Spotify … and I just so happen to be the host.

Thank you so much for being here with me & taking the time to educate yourself.

Seriously, comment below with any comments or suggestions for future posts or if this particular post left you questioning anything – I’ll respond within a day or so typically as long as I’m not traveling.

x, bri

Join Me Daily On Instagram @beachlifebri

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