Gestational Diabetes – Alternative Tests, Causes & Diagnosis

Did you know that there are  options to drinking the glucose test drink?  Well, there are! And talking to your doctor about it is easy.  You don't have to decline it or feel like you are 'opting out' of anything - instead, you are allowing your body to get a more accurate reading during the test! You see, real foods will give true results. According to the American Pregnancy Association: “Pregnant women can develop a condition known as Gestational Diabetes (diabetes brought on by pregnancy) which can pose a risk to both mother and baby. A glucose tolerance test is a common type of testing for potential gestational diabetes.” Let’s get the basics straight:

Gestational Diabetes

Typically, the body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose causing insulin to be released.  The insulin pulls the glucose from the blood and transfers it to the cells to be stored for energy.  When a woman is pregnant, the body leaves some glucose in the blood so that it can be passed to the baby through the placenta and umbilical cord. Gestational Diabetes is diagnosed when there is too high of an amount of glucose found in the blood while pregnant. Science has not found one specific cause for gestational diabetes, but the following are all possible links:
  • Overeating
  • Excess Carbohydrate or Sugar Consumption
  • Stress
  • Autoimmune Issues
  • Sleep Deprivation
The Dangers and Complications of Gestational Diabetes:
  • Increased C-section Rates
  • Increased NICU visits
  • Birth Injuries (Such as shoulder dystocia)
  • Large Babies:  Although over 70% of ‘Large Babies’ are born to mothers without gestational diabetes, women with the condition have been linked to having above average-sized babies.
  • Neonatal Hypoglycemia: low blood sugar in baby.
  • Fetal Hyperinsulinemia: the baby has higher levels of insulin after birth due to receiving too much glucose while in the womb.
  • Jaundice
  • Preeclampsia
  • Increased risk of the mother developing type 2 diabetes later in life
Note: There is no association between gestational diabetes and infant deaths.  

How is Gestational Diabetes Diagnosed?

Signs of Gestational Diabetes Include:
  • Sugar in urine
  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Frequent vaginal, bladder, and skin infections
  • Blurred vision
It has become common practice for every pregnant woman to be tested for gestational diabetes.  It is unclear if this is truly necessary, as only about 5% of pregnant women will be diagnosed, but because this condition can effect both mother and baby, I agree with testing for it. Current guidelines recommend what is called a “two step approach” for screening for gestational diabetes. The first step is a glucose challenge test (GCT).  During the GCT, the woman is given Glucola, a sugar drink, and then has her blood sugar level tested one hour after. If the results are above the normal range, the woman will come back to perform a 3-hour version of the test.

Glucola: The Sugar Drink

Glucola includes ingredients such as brominated soybean oil (BVO), food dyes, sodium benzonate, BHA, sodium hexametaphosphate, dextrose, and ‘natural flavorings.’ All of these pose the question of safety with consumption.  Preservatives and food dyes alone should raise a red flag, but what’s worse?  This drink actually contains an ingredient that is found in flame retardant products. BVO accumulates in the organs of the body and has been associated with heart lesions, fatty changes in the liver, and impaired growth and behavioral development. Studies link BVO to neurological problems, fertility problems, changes in thyroid hormones and early puberty.

Alternative Test Options

Instead of consuming Glucola, these options may be more appealing:
  • 50 GM of Organic Grape Juice (or apple juice)
  • 50 GM of Jelly Beans (Just over 50 beans): Of course, reach for the non-GMO, naturally colored version
Jelly beans sugar candy snack in a jar isolated on white
  • Glucolift is a natural, non-GMO, artificial colors & flavors free glucose tablet. It’s made for people with type 1 diabetes who need to raise their blood sugar regularly throughout the day. Each tablet contains 4g of glucose, so you would have to take 12.5 tablets to equal 50g of glucose.
  • 50 GM Breakfast Meal: this can consist of several options so talk to your birth team or research which you would most prefer.
Meals typically include eggs, juice, toast, and fruit, but some midwives or doctors include pancakes!  It is harder to be exact with glucose levels of real food, but the body processes real food the easiest and will give you the least chances of any stomach aches afterward.   classic english breakfast on rustic table top served with orange juice   Make sure you talk with your birth team, as they may have other alternatives available as well!   Resources:
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