Gestational Diabetes: Do I HAVE to drink that?

 

Short Answer:  Yes.

Long Answer:  You actually don’t HAVE to do anything you don’t want to do.  We won’t MAKE you do anything you don’t want to do.  This concept supports your autonomy as a patient.

However, you trust us to be the lifeguard of your pregnancy.  Throughout your pregnancy, we will monitor your blood work, vital signs, and the baby’s growth and development by using ultrasound, drawing your blood, listening to your baby’s heartbeat, and measuring the size of the uterus.  Trust us when we say that the second trimester glucose screen is very important to the health of both you and your baby.  We might even recommend it earlier in the first trimester if we are concerned about impaired glucose tolerance.

One complication of pregnancy that we screen for and treat is called gestational diabetes.  Gestational diabetes can occur in women of any size, even without a personal history of family history of diabetes.  Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and the body uses insulin to help transport blood glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells of the body.  The hormones of pregnancy can cause you to be resistant to insulin.  If you become resistant to insulin, your blood glucose levels become elevated and the glucose easily transports across the placenta to your baby.  This can cause the baby to grow very large, and at the same time it impairs the development of the baby’s lungs.  You can end up with a very large baby who, at the same time, has very immature lungs and needs help breathing after birth.

Maternal Complications of Gestational Diabetes:

  • You have a 70% chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes within 10 years
  • You are at a higher risk of high blood pressure or preeclampsia in pregnancy
  • You might require medication to help manage your blood glucose
  • You are at higher risk of miscarriage or stillbirth

 

Fetal Complications of Gestational Diabetes:

  • Your baby can grow very large
  • Your baby might experience a shoulder dystocia at delivery, which is an emergency situation where the head delivers but the large body is stuck behind your pelvic bones.  We might have to break the baby’s collar bone to help your baby deliver.
  • Your baby might require assistance breathing at delivery or in the first few days
  • Your baby might need to be observed or treated in the special care nursery for low blood glucose.

What happens if your one hour glucose screen comes back elevated? 

We will ask you to take a three hour glucose screen.  If the three hour glucose screen comes back elevated, you will have the diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes.  At that time, we will send you for a consultation with a Maternal Fetal Medicine physician called a Perinatologist.  These physicians are specially trained in high-risk pregnancy and obstetric ultrasound.  They can help us monitor the growth of your baby.  In addition, a diabetic educator will teach you how to test your blood glucose daily.  They will also teach you how to eat well to keep your blood glucose as stable as possible.  You will also be asked to increase your daily exercise, which will help your body be more sensitive to insulin and help you regular your blood glucose.

 

The glucose screen is usually done at the 24-28 week visit.  We ask that you eat normally that day, with good protein and not a heavy carbohydrate load.  Plan for the visit to take at least an hour because we have to draw your blood one hour after you finish drinking the liquid.  Pack a healthy snack with protein for the ride home.

 

So… yes.  Your midwives are aware that the glucose screen can cause nausea and discomfort.  You may not like the taste of the drink.  However, it is an important screening test that can help us provide the very best care for you and your baby.

 

For more information:

http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/

http://www2c.cdc.gov/podcasts/player.asp?f=11504&loc=WhatIsGestational

By: Kirsten Johnson | Certified Nurse Midwife

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