Bringing a newborn into the world is filled with love, excitement and much anxiety not knowing what the future may hold. Pregnant women have heard tales – or experienced it themselves – of the “orange drink” they have to take around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. It’s a story that’s passed from woman to woman about the overly sweet, syrupy taste of the drink and having to sit in the doctor’s office for blood tests. However, this important screening is worth the inconvenience. It detects and diagnoses gestational diabetes in pregnant women. Gestational diabetes affects nearly 10 percent of pregnant women, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Gestational diabetes, left untreated and unmanaged, can pose serious health risks to your baby, including excessive birth weight, preterm birth, low blood sugar at birth, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes later in life. Fortunately, gestational diabetes is easy to diagnose and manage, and a fasting blood sugar test can make sure the mother and baby stay healthy and happy.
Most pregnant women don’t experience signs or symptoms of gestational diabetes. In fact, the only way to know is with a blood sugar test, typically given around 24 to 28 weeks gestation. A few women may notice subtle signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes, including increased thirst or drinking more than normal, fatigue, and dry or parched mouth despite drinking a lot.
Gestational diabetes has several risk factors and more important than looking for the signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes is knowing if you might be at risk. Woman older than 25 years old, family history of type 2 diabetes, personal history of prediabetes, Gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies, and overweight or obese are all risk worth knowing about.
You can’t completely prevent gestational diabetes, but there are certain things you can do to lower your risk, including eating healthy, staying active and losing excessive weight before the pregnancy.
Your doctor will ask you to schedule a glucose challenge test around 24 or 28 weeks of pregnancy. During your appointment, you’ll drink a glucose solution and be asked to wait one hour in the office. After one hour, you will have a blood sugar test. Your doctor will let you know if results are abnormal and if another test is needed.
The follow-up test, a glucose tolerance test, is also given in your doctor’s office. You’ll need to fast overnight. Then, arriving in your doctor’s office you will have your blood drawn. After the first blood test, you will drink a glucose solution. Your blood will then be checked once an hour over three hours. A gestational diabetes diagnosis is given if two of the three blood draws have higher than normal blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes usually goes away on its own after delivery, but you may need your blood sugar to continue to be monitored after delivery. That repeat glucose testing will be done at your six-week postpartum visit to make sure that the gestational diabetes has resolved. Another reason the postpartum visit is so important.