Testing for gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is one of the conditions that midwives will be looking out for during your normal appointment schedule. If you have it, it will be spotted through tests.

Your ‘booking appointment is your first appointment with your midwife or GP to talk about your pregnancy. This usually happens around 8–12 weeks of pregnancy.

During that appointment, the midwife or GP will carry out some routine tests (tests offered to every woman) and ask lots of questions. Some of the questions will help find out if you are at risk of developing gestational diabetes (they will be looking to see if you have any of the risk factors). If you are considered at high risk, you will be offered a test.

Agreeing to these tests is important because if you have gestational diabetes, there is a small increased risk of serious birth complications. Finding out if you have it and treating the condition can reduce those risks.

The key things you need to know are:

  • If you are at risk of gestational diabetes but don’t take the test, it can’t be found and treated. This may increase the risk to you and your baby.
  • If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will have more check-ups and extra care during your pregnancy and labour.
  • In some women, gestational diabetes responds to changes in diet and exercise, while others will need to take medication, which may be in the form of tablets or insulin injections.

"I wasn’t obviously skinny, but I wasn’t massively obese either… I had no symptoms whatsoever. I had no expectation that the Lucozade test would be anything other than a formality."Beth, mum of two

What if I had gestational diabetes in an earlier pregnancy?

If you have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, you need to take action before you become pregnant again. You need to be scanned for diabetes when you are planning your pregnancy to make sure that your blood glucose levels are safe. You also need to be tested as soon as possible after your booking appointment or may be given a kit to monitor your own glucose levels. If your results are normal, you will be tested again later in your pregnancy, just to be sure.

The test for gestational diabetes - the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)/Lucozade test

Gestational diabetes is tested with the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). This is known sometimes as ‘the Lucozade test’, as people often drink Lucozade, a sugary drink, at step 3, below. The test is simple, and will not harm you or your baby. It may be carried out at your usual clinic or at a special diabetes clinic.

Step 1 You will usually be asked to eat nothing and drink only water the night before and on the morning of the test.

Step 2 A nurse takes a blood sample from you to measure your blood glucose level.

Step 3 You drink a glucose (sugary) drink.

Step 4 After two hours, the nurse takes another blood sample and measures your blood glucose level, to see how your body processed the sugars in the glucose drink.

Tip: You shouldn’t eat anything in between the two tests, but if you don’t live near the clinic it’s a good idea to bring a snack with you, as you will probably be hungry afterwards.

 

Sources

Read more

  • Pregnant woman in third trimester having blood glucose levels checked.

    Causes of gestational diabetes

    Clinicians and researchers do not understand yet exactly why some women get gestational diabetes and others don't, but we know that there are some life and family factors that make it more likely in some women.

  • Happy mum and healthy baby.

    Longer term implications of gestational diabetes

    If you have had gestational diabetes in pregnancy you will be at higher risk of having it again in a next pregnancy and of getting type 2 diabetes in later life.

  • Happy pregnant woman in hospital bed.

    Gestational diabetes and giving birth

    Today, for women with gestational diabetes, the emphasis is on trying to keep the birth as normal as possible unless there is a particular reason to do things differently.

  • Pregnant woman carrying yoga mat and water bottle.

    Treatment for gestational diabetes

    Gestational diabetes is treated by making changes to diet and exercise to manage blood sugar levels, and using medication if necessary.

  • Nurse showing woman test results.

    What are the risks of gestational diabetes?

    If you have gestational diabetes, you will have been told that gestational diabetes holds risks to the mother and baby, but women tell us they are not always clear exactly what those risks are.

  • Woman drinking a glass of water

    Symptoms of gestational diabetes

    Women with gestational diabetes often do not have any symptoms at all, and this is why women are all monitored for it by routine checks in pregnancy.

Last reviewed on March 1st, 2015. Next review date March 1st, 2018.

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