Last week, I went for my scheduled glucose screening test. I am not a medical professional, but I am told by one that most generally, women go for glucose testing between weeks 24-28 of their pregnancies to check for the possibility of developing the high blood sugar condition known as gestational diabetes.
I was not worried about this test; compared to the IVF process, I assumed drinking a "glucose cocktail" and then getting blood drawn would be no biggie. I fasted overnight and went in the morning to drink the glucose drink and then have my blood drawn. The drink was pretty gross, but not intolerable. It tasted like flat Sprite and had a syrupy consistency. I had to drink it in under five minutes and then wait in the waiting room to have my blood drawn 60 minutes later. Not a big deal.
Two days later, my doctor called to tell me I failed the glucose test. Apparently normal tests reveal sugar levels under 130 milligrams. My level was 155 milligrams. My doctor told me I would have to go back and do a three hour glucose tolerance test.
I have heard of a few women who failed the initial screening test, but I really didn't think I would fail it; I am, for the most part, a healthy eater, within normal weight range (well, pregnancy changes that a bit, but I am still within normal) and I have no history of dibetes in my family. Further, I am not a member of a high risk ethnic group (Hispanic, African American, Native American, or Asian).
So what causes gestational diabetes? Thanks to WebMD, here it is in a nutshell:
Almost all women have some degree of impaired glucose intolerance as a result of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. That means that their blood sugar may be higher than normal, but not high enough to have diabetes. During the later part of pregnancy (the third trimester), these hormonal changes place pregnant woman at risk for gestational diabetes.
During pregnancy, increased levels of certain hormones made in the placenta (the organ that connects the baby by the umbilical cord to the uterus) help shift nutrients from the mother to the developing fetus. Other hormones are produced by the placenta to help prevent the mother from developing low blood sugar. They work by resisting the actions of insulin.
Over the course of the pregnancy, these hormones lead to progressive impaired glucose intolerance (higher blood sugar levels). To try to decrease blood sugar levels, the body makes more insulin to get glucose into cells to be used for energy.
Usually the mother's pancreas is able to produce more insulin (about three times the normal amount) to overcome the effect of the pregnancy hormones on blood sugar levels. If, however, the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to overcome the effect of the increased hormones during pregnancy, blood sugar levels will rise, resulting in gestational diabetes.
This morning, I went back to the lab for the longer test. The test started with fasting and a baseline blood sample. Then, an hour later, I drank the glucose cocktail (gross, again) and then every hour for three hours, I had blood drawn. This way, it could be seen how my body processes glucose over time.
Should my results indicate I do have gestational diabetes, this is not a huge deal. Yes, I will need to monitor my sugar levels more closely, and perhaps it means I can't reach for the extra cookie.
Complications that can arrise from gestational diabetes can lead to over-nutrition and excess growth of the baby. This may not sound bad, but over time, a women with GD can end up with some pretty big babies, which, come delivery day, may not be fun at all!
I have yet to hear back from the doctor's office about my results. For a while, Chris and I were joking that I was growing a monster in my stomach because of how hungry I was during the second trimester. Who knows... maybe I am growing one. A BIG one!
5/7/13 Update: The nurse called and said I "passed" the second screening! I think I hear the ice cream sandwiches in the fridge calling my name... Just kidding! This sugar test certainly has me more aware of my sugar intake. I am not going to 'diet' or exclude sugar, but I will be more mindful of not reaching for a second ice cream sandwich:)