Why Is Glucose Testing During Pregnancy Needed?

A few weeks ago, I had to take my initial glucose test for my third pregnancy. Unfortunately, I got a call a few days after my test stating that I had failed (I must not have studied hard enough!) and had to go back in to take the three-hour test. Ugh. I don’t know about you, but I despise drinking that sugary drink. If only they could make 100 grams of dextrose in the form of a cookie, I would be all in!

I was in disbelief that even as a dietitian who knows all about eating healthy, I still had to take the three-hour test. I was really worried that I might fail, considering I have gained more weight with this pregnancy compared to my other two.

Thankfully, I passed. But it spurred conversations with my friends over why the glucose testing was needed in the first place. Is it really that big of a deal if your blood sugars run high during pregnancy?

Well, I’m here to share just a little information about why it IS extremely important to have your glucose test done.

First of all, about 50 percent of women who have gestational diabetes (GDM) don’t possess any risk factors, making screening necessary. GDM happens as a result of pregnancy hormones lessening one’s sensitivity to insulin. This results in the pancreas having to produce more insulin. In most people this is OK, but in some cases, the pancreas can’t keep up and glucose intolerance and GDM can develop.

What is so bad about having high blood sugars during pregnancy? One of the most common side effects is having a large baby weighing over 8 pounds 13 ounces (known as macrosomia), which can result in babies getting injured during the passage through the birth canal, and shoulder dystocia, which can get pretty serious as babies can get stuck and experience lack of oxygen to the brain. Babies can also be born with blood sugar levels that are too low, and have a higher risk of developing jaundice and respiratory distress after birth. Macrosomic babies also have a significantly increased risk of developing obesity and type-2 diabetes later in life.

So what is a gestational diabetic diet all about? It means eating a small amount of carbohydrate with a good amount of protein every 2-3 hours throughout the day. This helps your blood sugars stay level all day long instead of having peaks and valleys. It is especially important to limit carbohydrates first thing in the morning and at night when blood sugars can be more difficult to control.

Weight gain during pregnancy is hard. It can be difficult to see that scale continue to go up and up, but weight gain during pregnancy is also essential for a healthy baby. The best thing that you can do is to eat when you are hungry; fill up on protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats (think avocado, hummus, etc.); limit junk foods (yes, this includes ice cream); and continue to be as active as possible.

Healthy weight gain during pregnancy is such a wide range (from 10-40 pounds) depending on where you are starting from and how your individual body works. Cherish your growing body for the amazing thing it is doing and study up for that one-hour test so you don’t have to take the three-hour one!

Do you have a question about nutrition during pregnancy? Ask me in the comments below!

McNamee, Kinsey 8196

Kinsy McNamee is a registered dietitian at ProMedica Wellness.  She received her master’s degree in Food and Nutrition at BGSU where she also completed her dietetic internship. She lives in Perrysburg where she enjoys spending time with her husband, two young boys, and two dogs. Her monthly blog, Eating Right in Real Life, is a hearty serving of nutrition tips and insight for everyday families.