At some point during your pregnancy, your obstetrician will hand over a small bottle of a sugary flavored drink and ask you to down it just before you come to your next appointment. Within about 60 minutes of taking the drink, you'll have a blood sample taken. This is the glucose screening test for gestational diabetes, or high blood sugar during pregnancy. Between two and 10 of every 100 pregnant women in the United States develop gestational diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly every pregnant woman under a doctor’s care will take this test because, in some cases, it won’t present visible symptoms.
Symptoms of High Blood Sugar
The tricky part about gestational diabetes is that while a pregnant woman is dealing with nausea, backaches, headaches and all the other symptoms of a normal pregnancy, symptoms of increased blood sugar won't necessarily be apparent, notes the Texas Children's Hospital website. However, you could experience blurred vision, fatigue, increased thirst and urination, nausea or vomiting, frequent infections or weight loss despite an increased appetite.
Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes
Due to the typical lack of symptoms, doctors test nearly everyone for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks. However, if you are considered high-risk for high blood sugar, your doctor might also screen you at your first prenatal appointment. Those who are considered high risk include women who are obese, have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, have a family history of diabetes, previously gave birth to a big baby or one with a birth defect, have high blood pressure or are over age 35.
Effects of High Blood Sugar
Taking the glucose screening test, despite an absence of symptoms, is important for all pregnant women because of the effect high blood sugar can have on both the mother-to-be and her fetus. Pregnant women with uncontrolled high blood sugar have an increased risk of preeclampsia, preterm birth or a C-section, according to the CDC. It can also cause a baby to grow very large, which can lead to nerve damage in the baby's shoulders during birth. It also increases the child's chances of being obese or overweight later in life.
The Next Step
If you experience symptoms of gestational diabetes, speak with your doctor. If you don't pass the initial glucose screening test -- known colloquially as the one-hour test -- your doctor will have you take another longer test to confirm the results. If you are diagnosed, both you and your doctor will monitor your blood sugar levels as well as the development of your baby closely to ensure that your pregnancy progresses safely. Typically, you can control diabetes and its symptoms through a healthful diet that's low in sugar along with regular exercise. If you cannot control the symptoms, your doctor might prescribe oral medication or insulin therapy.