With the many visits during pregnancy, your doctor is keeping a close eye on the health of you and your baby. Towards the middle to later part of your pregnancy, a recommended screening is to test for gestational diabetes (GDM). […]
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Testing for Gestational Diabetes and the Telling “Orange Drink”

by Jill Taylor on June 24, 2014

in Pregnancy

pregoWith the many visits during pregnancy, your doctor is keeping a close eye on the health of you and your baby. Towards the middle to later part of your pregnancy, a recommended screening is to test for gestational diabetes (GDM).

Gestational diabetes is fairly common, reported in about 2 to 10 percent of pregnancies, making it a common health problem for expectant mothers.

You may have heard of the “orange drink,” insulin levels or blood sugar, but wonder how diabetes may impact you and your growing baby.

Basics of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that you may experience during pregnancy. Diabetes is complex, but in simple terms it means you have abnormally high levels of sugar in your blood.

When you eat something, your digestive system breaks down food sugars into glucose. It then travels into the bloodstream and meets up with insulin to use glucose as fuel.

If you know about diabetes, you’ll know about insulin. It’s a vital hormone made by your pancreas. When you’re pregnant, your pancreas will try to keep up with the increased insulin demand, but if it can’t your blood glucose levels rise too high. This is what results in gestational diabetes.

“GDM is very common and is routinely screened for in the second trimester with a modified oral glucose tolerance test,” explains Stephen Ponder, MD pediatric endocrinologist with McLane Children’s Scott & White. “All women are recommended to have this test performed during pregnancy.”

Screening for Gestational Diabetes

Around 24 to 28 weeks, your doctor will have you fast before your initial screening. This involves drinking “the orange drink” and taking a blood sample. This drink is a purified glucose solution. Dr. Ponder says this test measures the body’s response to the sugar load and any other abnormalities in your blood.

“These results are compared to normal ranges to determine if the test results are normal or abnormal,” Dr. Ponder explains.

It is important to get screened because gestational diabetes usually has no symptoms. If you have gestational diabetes, your doctor will work with you regarding your habits, diet and lifestyle to make sure you and your baby are safe.

Future Risk

Most women with gestational diabetes wonder if they’ll be diabetic after the baby is born. Your doctor will talk to you about the future risks after pregnancy.

“One pervasive myth is that once it goes away, it stays away,” says Dr. Ponder. “Nothing could be further from the facts.”

Dr. Ponder emphasizes that a woman with gestational diabetes has the highest possible risk for developing type 2 diabetes within the next 10 years.

This means once you’ve had gestational diabetes, you’re at higher risk for getting it again during a future pregnancy and for developing diabetes later in life.

This means once you’ve had gestational diabetes, you’re at higher risk for getting it again during a future pregnancy and for developing diabetes later in life.

If you had gestational diabetes, it can be a good time to get your health on track. GDM unmasks an underlying trait for future development of type 2 diabetes. Your doctor can help screen for type 2 diabetes and counsel you on ways to stay healthy.

Gestational diabetes should never be taken lightly. Sometimes the serious message is lost. Dr. Ponder says women will develop type 2 diabetes and miss an opportunity to either a) prevent it through lifestyle changes or b) delay proper diagnosis of diabetes until they have had it for many years.

“The mother’s gestational diabetes state does impact the health of the infant both immediately and later in life,” says Dr. Ponder.

Remember to follow your doctor’s advice regarding blood glucose levels while you’re planning your pregnancy, so you and your baby both remain healthy.

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