When pregnant, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is especially important for your baby’s wellbeing. One of the essential tests to track mom and baby’s health during pregnancy is called the glucose test. This test helps detect any potential issues related to gestational diabetes while also providing baseline values which can be tracked as the pregnancy progresses. So how do you know if you passed your glucose screening? Let’s look at some of the tell-tale signs!
But first, how do I know all of this? Hi — I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I was diagnosed with glucose intolerance during my last pregnancy, I have worked in a gestational diabetes clinic and I’ve seen THOUSANDS of patients who’ve had GDM, so I’m a great resource here.
What is the best sign that you passed your glucose test during pregnancy?
You get a call from the doctor that your results are normal.
I know, I know — that’s not what you wanted to hear. And I’m sorry. I wish I had better ideas.
The sad news is that gestational diabetes can be a silent problem. Today we’re going to explore signs that you do or don’t have gestational diabetes, but I want to be VERY clear that for MOST people there aren’t signs.
Which is why people need to take the darn 1 hour glucose test. Yes, I know it’s horrible (seriously, I detest that thing, and the 3-hour test I hate even more) — but it’s so important for you and your baby’s health.
Before we into this, you’re probably just rounding out your second trimester. It’s a PRFECT time to get that prenatal class in. This one can be done in just 3-hours, and comes with a best price guarantee! It really does simplify things that seem complicated (like gestational diabetes).
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It can cause high blood sugar levels in the mother and potentially lead to problems like preterm delivery, macrosomia (large baby), and low blood sugar in the newborn.
What kinds of problems can Gestational Diabetes cause?
Gestational diabetes can lead to some serious problems for the mother and baby. Women with gestational diabetes are more likely to deliver their babies preterm, have a large baby (macrosomia), and require interventions such as induction or cesarean section.
Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are also at risk of developing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Additionally, gestational diabetes can increase the mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
Note: It’s not having gestational diabetes that causes you to have diabetes later on — it means your body is just more prone to it, and you’re more likely to have it because of that. The good news is that when you know you’re prone to it there are diet and lifestyle changes you can make for your benefit.
What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?
The unfortunate truth is that there are often no symptoms of gestational diabetes. That’s why it’s so important to take the glucose screening test during pregnancy. The only way to know if you have gestational diabetes is by taking a blood sugar test and having high results. Some women may notice excessive thirst, frequent urination, nausea, or fatigue, but this is not the norm.
This is also why EVERY pregnant woman is encouraged to take the test — vs some things that we only test if you have symptoms or a family history.
What should I do if I think I have gestational diabetes?
If you are concerned that you may have gestational diabetes, it’s important to talk to your doctor and find out about getting tested for the condition. Your doctor will most likely perform a glucose screening test as part of your prenatal care.
Depending on your results, they may refer you for a 3-hour glucose tolerance test to confirm the diagnosis.
What happens if I do have gestational diabetes?
Once you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is important to work closely with your health care provider and follow the recommended treatment plan. This typically includes monitoring blood sugar levels, adhering to an appropriate diet and exercise plan, and possibly taking medication to control blood sugar levels.
Will I have diabetes forever?
No. Most women who have gestational diabetes will return to normal blood sugar levels after their pregnancy is over.
However, it’s important to get screened for type 2 diabetes 6-12 weeks after delivering your baby, to make sure that you don’t develop this condition in the future.
I think the general theory of thought is that we probably catch a decent number of people who are type 2 diabetic patients prior to their pregnancy. Then, they fail that glucose test and are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Because they were type 2 before, it continues after they have the baby — which is a good part of the reason they check you again a few weeks after baby is born.
However, they encourage you to go back to your previous pattern of eating after the placenta is out. Aka, one of my BFF’s brought me chocolate cake in the hospital after my #3 was out. It was delicious (and I felt fine afterwards).
What are the things that might make you think you don’t have gestational diabetes?
Things like normal weight gain, no high blood sugars prior to pregnancy, and no family history of diabetes do put you at a lower risk. However, it’s still not unusual for people with all of these positive signs to STILL have diabetes!
Hence, you HAVE to take the test.
And yes, this does seem complicated to have something that can be so problematic be an issue so detrimental to your baby. It’s annoying our body can’t detect it on it’s own.
When is the glucose screening test taken during pregnancy?
The glucose screening test is usually taken between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. This test is a simple blood test that helps to check for gestational diabetes, which is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy.
The glucose screening test shows how your body processes sugar and may help to diagnose any issues early on. Generally, the test should be towards the end of your third trimester, but it can be done in early pregnancy as well if you have significant risk factors which include:
- Previous large baby
- Family history of type 2 diabetes
- Previously considered borderline diabetic
- Had gestational diabetes with your previous pregnancy(s)
- Overweight or obese prior to pregnancy
The glucose screening test is an important part of prenatal care and helps ensure the health and safety of both you and your growing baby.
This test is known by a few names.
- Gestational diabetes test
- Glucose challenge test
- Oral glucose tolerance test
And, if you fail your one hour glucose test you may be asked to take a three-hour glucose test (although if your results are REALLY high on the one-hour test they will just consider you diabetic and refer you to someone to help you maintain your blood sugar during pregnancy.
Pro Tip: Around this time is the same time you get the RhoGAM shot if your blood type is negative.
How does the Glucose Test Work?
You arrive to the lab. Some doctors want you to fast prior to the test, although most often anymore you don’t need to arrive fasting. I have a whole post on what to eat before your gestational diabetes test.
If your doctor wants a fasting blood sugar, they will take a blood sample (if they don’t order, that you’ll just skip to the next step).
They will have you drink a very sweet glucose solution (I recommend to just drink it fast so you can get started). They will then check your blood glucose level (by a blood draw) 1 hour after you drink the solution. After they test that, they will know if you’re OK or if it was abnormal and you need to take the 3-hour test, or if it was high enough they are confident to diagnose gestational diabetes at that point.
During the test pregnant women should not eat or drink anything else.
Pro Tip: Make SURE to bring a snack with carbohydrates and proteins with you during this test. For me, my blood sugar always drops afterwards and I don’t feel too well. Making sure that I eat right after helps a lot (I usually bring a PB&J in my car and I just eat it as soon as I’m done).
I also have an article that gives tips to passing your glucose test and one on not failing the glucose test. Cliff notes: There isn’t much (but eating correctly beforehand can help).
The most important thing to be aware of in this article is that there are no particular signs of gestational diabetes. Yes, if people have wild blood sugar swings, or specific bad symptoms that CAN be a sign, but the VAST majority of people diagnosed with gestational diabetes have no idea that they had it. The good news is that you only really need to follow the diet recommendations for the remainder of your pregnancy
I have also heard (and felt myself) that after I followed the eating guidelines (matching my carbohydrates with proteins and making sure I ate a couple of snacks and smaller meals during the day) I felt MUCH better. So, that’s a win that just shifting my eating helped.
Even if you can’t imagine testing your blood sugar or changing how you eat, please still take the diabetes test so they can monitor you or your baby for any complications. It’s just so important.
If you’d love to know more important, and simple things you can do to have a safe and healthy pregnancy please do come join me in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. We aim to prepare you from bump to bassinet in just three hours!
And, if you’re not quite sure you’re ready for that whole thing, check out my free prenatal class. It’s your first step toward getting in the driver’s seat of your birth. Plus I go over some other 3rd trimester tests that your doctor may be considering for you.
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice.
She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
She is also the curly head behind the website Pulling Curls and is the creator of The Online Prenatal Class for Couples — the #1 hospital-based prenatal class on the internet.