Testing for gestational diabetes

By Heather Spies, MD Jun 09, 2017

Gestational diabetes is when someone begins to have elevated blood sugar during pregnancy due to carbohydrate intolerance. Though more prevalent in Hispanic, African-American, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander women as well as in women with obesity and/or sedentary lifestyles, all women should be tested.

Exactly who will have gestational diabetes is hard to predict. Often, women with gestational diabetes do not show symptoms. However, having gestational diabetes may increase your risk for other pregnancy complications. This is why it is very important to detect, monitor and treat the condition.

Preparing for testing
You can eat normally the days before the test, and you do not need to fast (not eat). The day of the test you should avoid high carb or sugar foods (in other words, skip the caramel roll and frappuccino!) Also, try not to worry about the test! Do your best to stay healthy, eat right and exercise throughout your pregnancy.

Typically, the test is completed between 24-28 weeks, but it may be done sooner if a woman has risk factors for diabetes in pregnancy. During the test, you are given a sugary drink and a blood test is taken one hour later to check your blood sugar levels. If elevated, a more specific test may be needed. This additional test is done another day, starting with a fasting blood sugar — nothing is eaten for eight hours before the test — followed by drinking the sugary drink and having your blood sugar level checked one, two and three hours after.

If diagnosed
Your provider will start by checking your blood sugars daily. A diabetic educator and nutritionist will help you adjust your diet to control your sugars throughout the remainder of your pregnancy as well.
With a few simple alterations and the care and support of your OB/GYN, midwife or nurse practitioner and care team, gestational diabetes can be managed.

Additional information on gestational diabetes can be found at ACOG.org/patients. A wonderful book is Your Pregnancy and Childbirth, Month to Month, Revised 6th edition.

Visit sanfordhealth.org for OB providers in your area.