The gestational diabetes test is the absolute worst, if you ask me. When I got pregnant with my Chicken Patty, I worked with my midwife to come up with an alternative that would make both of us comfortable. Lo and behold, when I had an OBGYN for my third pregnancy, she was perfectly okay with the alternative method, too! Here’s how to safely skip the gestational diabetes test, and keep your doctor’s respect, too.
Disclaimers and Disclosure
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission from your clicks. Check out my full disclosure here.
Also, I’m not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice. It shouldn’t take the place of medical advice from an MD, OBGYN or CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife). I’m just a lady who’s had three babies and successfully and safely skipped the gestational diabetes test twice, with the blessing of both an OBGYN and CNM.
Reasons You Might Want to Safely Skip the Gestational Diabetes Test
If you participate in Facebook mama groups of any kind, you’ll almost certainly read about this concern over and over again.
Women approaching the midpoint of pregnancy who have heard horror stories (or simply know from past experience that they don’t tolerate the Glucola drink well) appeal to the masses: “My gestational diabetes test is next week. How bad is it?” or “I threw up all day the last time I took the Glucola drink. Do I have other options?” The responses are hugely varied.
There’s no doubt that it sucks. Occasionally, some crazy mama will chime in that she loves it, but those ladies are rare. Here are the reasons why you might want to safely skip the gestational diabetes test.
You’re generally very disciplined about your pregnancy diet.
If you haven’t had a soda in years, the Glucola drink is not for you. It is a ton of sugar in one dose. Actually, it’s just sugar water, chemicals, and food coloring. It’s similar to a Mountain Dew, without the carbonation.
If you check out the nutrition facts on the Glucola drink on Foodbabe’s website, you’ll be surprised that a doctor is recommending it at all. However, it’s treated as the gold standard for assessing the body’s ability to process glucose in pregnancy. And certainly a lot of work has gone into trying to figure out the best way to screen for gestational diabetes. The complete history of the test can be found here.
But I digress. If you’re a health nut, you’re not gonna like this test. It’s very hard on the body, particularly if you’re usually very careful about what you consume.
You sometimes crash after having too much sugar.
I find that my blood sugar has always crashed easily after a heavy carb/low protein meal. I can remember as early as elementary school, going to the nurse each morning around 10:30 or 11:00, confused by my headaches. As an adult, I now realize that I couldn’t handle just cereal for breakfast to last me until lunch. My sugar was crashing. And to this day, if I don’t balance out proteins with carbs, I feel terrible.
The trouble with the heavy load of sugar in the Glucola drink is that it must be done on an empty tummy. For me, that’s a recipe for a lot of misery.
When I had Turkey Burger, my first, I took the Glucola drink without ever considering that I could discuss it with my doctor or find safe ways to decline it. I only took the one-hour test. I failed it by 1 point, which my doctor decided was “close enough” to passing. My OB allowed me to skip the three hour test before I even fussed to him about it.
Nevertheless, I felt terrible for two straight days. It set my blood sugar on a roller coaster ride wherein I attempted to eat more sugar once I crashed, and then repeated the process again. I had headaches, fatigue, brain fog, and nausea.
I did not plan to make this mistake again with future pregnancies.
You want to skip the gestational diabetes test because you’re an easy puker.
Do you dread puking like most normal human beings? Do you suffer from an easily upset stomach? Say no more. This test is probably going to really bother you.
My sister has a pretty weak stomach, and she tolerated it just fine. But judging by Facebook mommy groups, she is the exception to the rule. It’s not that the drink is so disgusting to drink – it’s basically like drinking a non-carbonated soda. The orange one isn’t a truly terrible flavor. It’s just that some bellies don’t take kindly to going from totally empty to filled with sugary beverage.
How the Test Works in a Doctor’s Office
The Glucose Tolerance Test is a two part test for some women. The first test is super sensitive, and it’s meant to screen for women who should go ahead and do the full three-hour test. So many women get to do only the first test; an unlucky few have to come back for the three hour test.
The One Hour Test
For the 1 hour test, you’re usually advised to fast before testing. Most women try to schedule their test first thing in the morning, because you should fast for about 8 hours beforehand.
When you arrive, they’ll take a blood sample to measure your fasting blood sugar. This number should be under 95, but you won’t know right away. Fasting blood sugar should be under 90 or 95 whether you’re pregnant or not.
Then you’ll drink the Glucola drink. Chug, chug, chug. Faster is easier in my opinion, and plus, for the sake of testing accuracy, they’ll make you finish it in less than five minutes.
You’ll sit in a waiting room or the doctor’s office. You can’t eat or drink anything.
60 minutes later, they’ll draw blood again. They like this number to be less than 200.
If your numbers aren’t what the doctor likes to see, they’ll bring you back for the three-hour test.
Note: MANY women fail the screening but pass the three hour test easily. If you’re very concerned about gestational diabetes but don’t pass this first screener, there’s no need to panic. You’ll very likely pass the second test, and that’s what matters.
The Three Hour Test
If you get called back for the three hour test, again, don’t panic. You’ll probably pass this one if you failed the screener. The purpose of the first test is to be sensitive enough to catch a large number of women who might need closer examination.
The test begins the same as the screener. You’ll start by fasting overnight, and then you’ll begin with a blood draw. Then, they’ll give you a Glucola drink that’s even MORE sugary – 100 grams this time!
Next, you’ll wait at the doctor’s office for the entire three hour test. Every 60 minutes, they’ll draw blood again. You can have one high reading, but if your results show that your body is struggling to metabolize the sugar properly, you’ll get the gestational diabetes diagnosis.
Here are the values they like to see on the 3 Hour Test.
1 Hour: 180
2 Hours: 155
3 Hours: 140
Tracking Your Blood Sugar at Home to Safely Skip the Gestational Diabetes Test
‘It really doesn’t have to be this way! You’ll find other ideas to present to your doctor or midwife online, but you’re more likely to be met with some resistance, I think. One alternative is taking a certain number of jelly beans.
The jellybean method accepted by some midwives doesn’t accomplish much in my opinion. It’s not much healthier, and if it’s unusual for your diet, you’ll probably feel bad afterward.
Doctors may not be comfortable with this method, either. After all, it seems like a less precise method than drinking Glucola without any of the benefits.
I think the best method is at-home diabetes testing, and your doctor is likely to be very open-minded towards it. They’ll also know that you’re serious about wanting to avoid the test, and take your hesitation much more seriously. I’ll explain how it works below.
Advantages to Testing Your Blood Sugar at Home
It measures your blood sugar with your regular diet.
In my case, I now eat a gluten-free diet and never drink sodas. I still allow sugar in my day, and I do plenty of pregnant no-nos like coffee and cold cuts. I’ve even been known to eat a hog dog while pregnant (the horrors)!
However, my sugar (bread, fruit, cereal, sodas, dessert) intake is a radical change from the old me. It’s not very useful, in my mind, to know how my pregnant body responds when I dump a ton of sugar into my system at once, because that’s not something I do ordinarily.
It would be much more important to understand if my body processes the sugar in my regular diet well. If the old bod is freaking out behind the scenes about my omelette and coffee, sandwich and salt and vinegar chips lunch, and steak and roasted veggie dinner, THAT is something my doctor and I need to know about!
I would actually prefer my clients do the finger stick method for two reasons: I don’t want them consuming that much sugar, and tracking it over time gives the woman a much better picture of how her body reacts to certain foods. It’s a great glimpse into her own health and I highly encourage this method.
You get to avoid the nasty sugar drink.
It can provide useful data on how well your body is functioning.
Measuring your own blood sugar throughout the day can provide useful insight into how well your diet is working for you.
Maybe your blood sugar values look really great for most of the day, but your 2:00 p.m. reading is consistently borderline high. Knowing that might cause you to take a closer look at your lunch – perhaps that daily sandwich habit is causing problems! Now you know…
You can reuse the supplies after pregnancy for the betterment of your health.
You may not be super excited about paying for testing supplies, because it’s likely slightly spendier than taking the glucose tolerance test. However, you can keep these at-home supplies forever, and use them perhaps annually to check in on your own health.
There is a lot of diabetes in my family; both Type 1 and Type 2, actually! So having these supplies on hand allows me to periodically test my blood sugar for a week at a time to make sure the ole pancreas isn’t getting wonky and overworked. Can’t have a wonky pancreas, can we?
Disadvantages of Testing Your Blood Sugar at Home
There are several legitimate reasons you might decide it’s not worth the fuss of abstaining from the glucose tolerance test.
It can possibly be more expensive.
Depending on the quality of your insurance, testing at home might be more expensive. You should be able to purchase the whole kit without insurance for under about $35 and insurance might completely cover the glucose tolerance test.
If there are diabetics in your family and friends circle, you might find that someone is happy to loan you a spare set for a couple of weeks. You should absolutely replace their testing strips, but that’s still a big cost savings. Many diabetic folks have multiple sets in case of emergency – ya know, in case they leave one kit somewhere.
Sensitive types might not like pricking their fingers.
But I mean, it’s so not a big deal. It’s such a minor thing. You’re gonna have a baby in about 20 weeks, so ya better buck up, buttercup. Finger pricking is a walk in the park by comparison.
It takes longer.
You can’t knock this out in an afternoon. You’ll need to do it four times daily for two weeks. On the other hand, you’ll have an idea pretty quickly if your numbers will make your OB happy. So you won’t really be waiting for test results from your OB’s office, you’ll just be gathering them as you go. One final perk – you don’t have to take off work or disrupt your schedule in the least. Just keep it in your purse, set some alarms each day, and you’re golden.
To safely skip the gestational diabetes test, all you need is a testing kit, like this one above or available at any pharmacy. Of course, you’ll need some way to jot notes, and for most of us, that’s just our phones these days.
Your kit comes with the monitor, a little carrying case, the testing strips that collect the blood drop, teeny tiny hygienic needles, and the poker thingymajig. You’re welcome for the medical vocabulary.
The Process for Testing Blood Sugar at Home
You’ll take your blood sugar four times a day.
- Fasting, first thing in the a.m.
- Two hours after the START of breakfast.
- Another two hours after the START of lunch.
- Two hours after the START of dinner.
The actual process of testing blood sugar is no big deal. Just follow whatever directions come with your kit.
I like to keep the testing supplies next to my bed at night, and as soon as the alarm goes off in the morning, I log my fasting blood sugar on my phone. The AM number should be under 95.
Now, each time you start to eat a meal, set a two hour timer on your phone. Go ahead and jot down in your note-taking app what you’re eating.
When your timer goes off, get out your testing kit, do the dang thing, and put it back in your safekeeping spot. Don’t forget to record every single value. Two hours after the beginning of each meal, you’ll want the number to be less than 140.
If Your At-Home Results Are Bad…
At the end of the first day, if you have a couple of numbers that look borderline no bueno, play around with your diet somewhat over the next couple of days and see if you can get them in a healthier range. Don’t fudge those numbers – under NO CIRCUMSTANCE do you want to make yourself look “better” by artificially lowering them, or by changing your diet dramatically for those two weeks. If you then go back to your normal diet when the test is done, you aren’t being honest with yourself or your doctor, and that’s not healthy for you or the baby.
If your numbers are obviously not meeting the guidelines listed in the section above, call your doctor immediately and let him or her know the results, even if you aren’t finished with your 2 weeks. He or she will make a plan together.
A Sample Script for Talking to Your Doctor About Alternative Testing
Some of us (me, actually) REALLY struggle to make requests of doctors. I don’t know what that’s all about. They are human, after all, and probably have their own fears and concerns regarding their own health.
Just remember, this isn’t about questioning their judgment or being difficult. You don’t need to bother them with some longwinded explanation of why you’re concerned about the test. “Keep it simple” is usually great advice, and it works here, too.
Here’s something you might say to your doctor to remain respectful while asking for an accommodation.
“Hey, doctor, there’s something I’ve been kind of worried about. I’m wanting to safely skip the gestational diabetes test. Of course, I know how important it is to screen for diabetes. I am willing to purchase my own diabetes testing kit to use at home. I know how to take my fasting blood sugar, and then take my blood sugar two hours after the start of every meal. If I record these values four times daily for two weeks, and then submit the results to you, would you support that request?”
This will likely instigate follow-up questions from your doctor, and you should just respectfully and honestly answer their questions about your hesitation. I believe as long as you don’t make it personal or behave disrespectfully, they won’t either. You will not be the first person to ask, but you may be the first person to make the request with a thoughtful alternative in mind.
What are your experiences with the Glucose Tolerance Test? Have you used alternative methods in pregnancy with your doctor or midwife’s support?