Many women are unaware of alternatives to the syrupy orange or grape drink used as the traditional pregnancy glucose test.1 When I was pregnant with my boys, I opted not to take the pregnancy glucose test that requires drinking glucola and instead used an alternate testing method. After checking out the ingredients for the Oral Glucose Tolerance beverage, which is essentially sugar water with lots of artificial colors and preservatives, I determined that it was not something I wanted to consume while pregnant.2 So, I began researching other options. While it’s certainly important to monitor your blood glucose during pregnancy, there are alternatives to drinking the sugar water that many doctors routinely prescribe to their pregnant patients.
Unfortunately, many pregnant moms do not realize they have a choice. Your doctor should be able to provide other options if you’re interested in an alternative to the conventional glucose test. If they don’t know, educate them! But first, what is this Glucose Test, and why do pregnant women need to take it?
What is the Pregnancy Glucose Test?
The pregnancy glucose test is an artificially sweetened, syrupy drink called Glucola that pregnant women drink to test for Gestational Diabetes (GD). Doctors typically encourage expectant women to take this one- or two-part test between 24-28 weeks during pregnancy. The first test is an Oral Glucose Challenge Test (OGCT) that contains around 50, 75, or 100 grams of sugar. Once the expectant mom has consumed the 50-gram solution, an hour later, she will take a blood test to measure her blood sugar. If she passes this test, she will likely not receive further testing for gestational diabetes. If she does not pass the test, a longer test with a higher glucose level may be given.
Why Do We Test for Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a type of glucose intolerance that occurs during pregnancy. Luckily, it often resolves itself after childbirth. It is important to ensure that pregnant women do not have blood sugar issues or gestational diabetes, as they can increase the rates of many pregnancy and birth complications. However, there are other ways your doctor can test how your body handles an influx of sugar.
Why Should I Rethink Drinking Glucola?
If you look at the label on the back of your Glucola bottle, some of the ingredients that you will find are artificial flavors, artificial colors, BVO, and high fructose corn syrup. The glucose in the test is derived from corn, which is not GMO-free. These are not ingredients that most women would want to drink during their pregnancy. Or ever. Your doctor may insist that it’s harmless and safe to consume, but it’s becoming more known that it may, in fact, not be. Some women can’t tolerate Glucola and have reported side effects such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, and fatigue.3 I don’t want to think about how your baby may react to it in your womb.
Often, women are taught to listen, be polite, and follow orders. When we become patients, this can cause us to accept treatments, tests, and procedures that we may not feel are needed, that we know nothing about, or that may not be best for ourselves or our babies. Luckily, there are usually other alternatives that you can consider.
Pregnancy Glucose Test Alternatives
Consider using real food instead of the glucola drink (any whole, natural food high in sugar will work—check with your doctor).
Some doctors provide alternatives to glucola and test pregnant women after they’ve consumed things like:
- 6 ounces of organic grape juice + a banana.
- 1 cup milk + 1.5 cups cereal.
- Pancakes with 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Natural soda or drink with 50 grams of total sugar
- 16-ounce orange juice.
Another option to consider if you’re trying to avoid the test is to monitor your blood sugar with a glucometer throughout your pregnancy. This is the alternative that I chose while pregnant because it wouldn’t create an extreme blood sugar spike and allowed me to follow my regular, healthy diet. I also avoided feeling like I was going to vomit and did not have to experience the dreaded “crash and burn” that women report after drinking the glucola.
I used this monitor and these strips to monitor my glucose (they’re inexpensive and easy to order, but any reliable monitor would work). I kept a log for two weeks to ensure everything was on track. I showed this log to my midwife and used this to officially “opt out” of the traditional test.
Here is what the normal levels should look like:4
- Fasting blood glucose (first thing in the morning) of 86 or lower
- 1 hour after eating = 140 or lower
- 2 hours after eating = 120 or lower
- 3 hours after eating = back to fasting level
There can be some variation, but most of your readings should be in these ranges.
Watching my glucose this way during my pregnancy gave me a comprehensive view of glucose tolerance. I could also see what foods caused higher spikes for me and what didn’t affect it as much.
No matter what you decide with your pregnancy glucose test, remember:
- It is important to monitor blood sugar for both you and your baby.
- You have a CHOICE!
I encourage you to research and decide which method is right for you.