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The Flat Orange Soda that Helps Diagnose Gestational Diabetes

Get the fizz on the glucose screening test.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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Dear Doctor:

I'm 24 weeks pregnant and just scheduled my glucose screening test. I'm really nervous, as type 2 diabetes runs in my family. What can I expect from the test and what exactly does it mean to have gestational diabetes?

Sincerely,

“Sugar Woes”

 

Dear Sugar Woes,

Congratulations on reaching this point in your pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes is when a woman develops high blood glucose levels during pregnancy, due to the action of pregnancy hormones that prevent cells from taking in glucose properly.

High blood sugar during pregnancy can lead to excessive birthweight, low blood sugar in your baby, and preterm birth. For mom, it could mean high blood pressure and preeclampsia, in addition to a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

In order to ensure that a pregnant woman’s blood sugar remains in the normal range, we screen for gestational diabetes using a glucose screening test during the 24th to 28th weeks of pregnancy. Generally this screen involves consuming a very sweet-tasting drink—think orange soda on steroids—followed up by a blood test an hour later to see how your body metabolized the sugar. If you “fail” this first test, you will be asked to come back for a second, similar one that takes three hours and requires that you fast overnight.

If you are one of the 2 to 10 percent of pregnant women diagnosed each year with gestational diabetes, you will likely be referred to a nutritionist who can help you create a meal plan that will keep your blood sugars steady throughout the day. And you will have to test your sugar levels through finger pricks that you will do at home to guide you in making adjustments to your routine. Most of the time, the condition is easily treated through changes in diet and exercise, though sometimes medication is needed.

For most women, gestational diabetes is temporary and mom’s glucose levels stabilize with the birth of her baby. However, because women with gestational diabetes are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, it’s important to be tested again between six and 12 weeks after giving birth. In addition, your physician can recommend diabetes prevention strategies, including weight loss and diet modification.

“Generally [a glucose screening] involves consuming a very sweet-tasting drink—think orange soda on steroids—followed up by a blood test an hour later to see how your body metabolized the sugar.”
Dr. Natalie Meirowitz, maternal-fetal medicine specialist

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Published July 24th, 2018

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