If you’ve been reading the organic mom groups, you might have come across moms challenging the standard gestational diabetes test during pregnancy. It’s for good reason…
The Glucola drinks are essentially sugar water with hazardous artificial colors + preservatives for a ridiculously long shelf life. Think flame retardants, artificial dyes made from petroleum + GMOs. Yikes!
These drinks are no better than most sodas on the market, so, I found it bizarre that doctors would recommend consuming these while pregnant. I chose to seek safer alternatives + found a surprisingly simple, stress-free organic solution that I’m sharing with you today.
Hope this helps you, too!
First, just to be thorough, I’m including this information from my midwife’s informed consent handout:
Informed Consent Handout
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is an abnormally high blood glucose level diagnosed during pregnancy. Like diabetes, it’s an inability of the body to utilize glucose due to a lack of, or resistance to, insulin.
In pregnancy, some resistance to insulin is normal and is caused by insulin-blocking hormones from the placenta, which creates a higher level of glucose circulating in the blood: making it more available for the baby.
In general, women who do not have a family history of diabetes, eat a healthy diet (foods high in fiber and whole grains; low in simple sugars, fats + processed foods), exercise regularly (20-30 minutes a day), and are not overly stressed are at low-risk for developing this disorder.
Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes
Although there are risk factors to developing gestational diabetes, 50% of clients diagnosed with gestational diabetes don’t have any of these risk factors:
- 35-years-old or older
- Family history of diabetes
- Previously large baby (greater than 9 lbs at birth)
- Diagnosis of gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- History of infertility
- Miscarriages or stillbirth
- History of chronic yeast and/or urinary tract infections
- Pre-pregnancy weight of over 180 lbs.
Symptoms such as excessive thirst, constant hunger, fruity breath, glucose in the urine, frequent urination, weight loss, and general weakness can develop. The consequences of gestational diabetes can be serious. If unchecked, gestational diabetes can cause:
- Recurrent yeast infections
- Excessive amniotic fluid
- A greater risk of developing pre-eclampsia
- A greater risk of stillbirth (for GDM’s with high fasting levels)
- Kidney infection
- Operative delivery
- Increased tearing
- Maternal postpartum hemorrhage
- Shoulder dystocia
- Physical damage to the baby during birth
- Respiratory distress of the newborn
- Newborn low blood sugar after birth
- Jaundice + polycythemia
Therefore, it’s important to detect gestational diabetes when it does occur. Additionally, more than half of women with gestational diabetes will develop diabetes in the next 20 years + their babies are at greater risk for obesity + diabetes.
Testing urine for glucose is also not a reliable indicator of blood sugar level.
Some women choose not to test at all. If you do decide to go through with some form of glucose testing, it’s important to remember that gestational diabetes is rare, and most women diagnosed with it can usually maintain blood glucose levels with a modified diet + exercise.
If you got through that whole consent sheet, I hope your takeaway message was something like this:
First, that gestational diabetes is rarely something to panic about. You can manage it simply if you do have it + go on to have a completely healthy pregnancy otherwise.
Second, if you + your practitioners think screening is an important measure given your symptoms + health history, then it is worth considering your testing options.
Information is everything, right?[Speaking of information, here’s a more science-based article on Diagnosing Gestational Diabetes from Evidence-Based Birth.]
My Organic Alternative
My midwife for my first pregnancy offered to do the standard one-hour 50-gram glucose testing (with that disgusting Glucola drink), or testing that shows how my blood glucose level reacts to my normal diet, which can give an indication if there’s truly a problem with my metabolism.
I chose to do the normal diet glucose testing: eating my normal diet including 20 grams of protein + 50 grams of complex carbs one hour before testing with the glucometer.
So, I basically ate breakfast one hour before my appointment. I think I had avocado toast on whole grain with an egg on top + a half glass of watered-down orange juice — it was that easy!
Another option available to you: Consuming 50 to 100 grams of sugar from food:
- Cup of milk (12g)
- Slice of bread (15g)
- Banana (20g)
- 6 oz grape juice (30g)
- 16 oz orange juice (40g)
- 8 oz apple juice (40g)
For my second pregnancy, I’m likely opting out of this testing altogether. I check my blood levels with my functional medicine doctor + between her + my midwives, we’re all confident that I’m not an at-risk candidate for gestational diabetes given my lifestyle. Be sure to have an open conversation with your health team to discuss your individual care decisions.
Additional Options from My Midwives (Baby #2)
Preparing for the 50g GCT Screening
This is not a fasting procedure, meaning that the procedure does not need to be first thing in the morning. In the three hours prior to the test, however, you should eat only protein snacks so as to not add to the glycemic load of the test.
Choose from one of the following two recipes*:
Recipe #1 — Smoothie
- 8 oz whole milk plain yogurt or half jar (75gr) of fruit flavored soy yogurt alternative or 1 1oz sweetened almond milk*
- 1 banana
- 1 c frozen strawberries
- 8 oz orange juice
- 2 tbsp honey or 3 tbsp of real maple syrup
Recipe #2 — Breakfast Meal
- 1 6-inch pancake
- 1 oz real maple syrup
- 8 oz whole milk plain yogurt or half jar (75-grams) of fruit flavored soy yogurt alternative or 11oz sweetened almond milk*
- 10 oz orange juice
Plan to eat/drink the standardized food option 30 minutes before our appointment time. Try your best to finish eating/drinking the food within 10 minutes, and note the time that you start eating. Then do a blood draw 1 hour from that time.
*The glucose load was estimated on these specific products. If any change due to aversions or sensitivity or preference is needed, just ask your practitioner for an alternative!
What alternatives to the standard gestational diabetes testing have you considered?
If you have recommendations for other curious moms, please share by leaving a comment below.