Alternatives to the Glucola Gestational Diabetes Test: My Experience
Photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash
Pregnancy is full of tests, and a dreaded one is the gestational diabetes test! This test usually requires mama-to-be to drink 50 grams of sugar within 10 minutes and then test blood glucose levels one hour later. Normally, a healthcare provider offers the 50 grams of sugar in the form of a drink called Glucola.
Putting aside the idea of consciously drinking that much sugar that quickly, the ingredients of Glucola are not the best. They include brominated vegetable oil, dextrose from corn, and food dyes. Personally, these are ingredients I consciously avoid.
As a mama-to-be who has consciously detoxed her body pre-pregnancy and has been very intentional about what I eat during pregnancy, I felt that drinking Glucola would be contrary to all the hard work I did. I was also worried about how I would feel if I drank Glucola. I read stories about headaches, nausea, and overall just feeling awful following the test. Sure, some of this is most likely related to drinking 50 grams of sugar in 10 minutes (!!!), but the ingredients probably don’t help. I also know I don’t tolerate corn well, so I decided to look for alternatives.
Luckily, my midwife is all about alternatives! Of course, you can decline to be tested, but I decided this was not the right path for me. Even though I am not high risk for gestational diabetes – I eat a moderate amount of carbs, I limit my sugar, I am gaining a healthy amount of weight, and I didn't have blood sugar regular issues pre-pregnancy – I was uncomfortable with potentially having undiagnosed gestational diabetes. I am planning a home birth, and having optimal health is so important for remaining a good candidate for homebirth. Having an uncontrolled condition and the effects – like a very large baby – would make me feel unsafe proceeding with my homebirth.
My midwife offered a couple options – (1) drink 50 grams of sugar from another source, or (2) monitor my blood glucose levels several times a day over the course of 2-3 days. I chose to drink 50 grams of sugar from another source. I actually went back and forth on this quite a bit because I am not just opposed to the ingredients in glucola, but also to drinking 50 grams of sugar in one sitting! But in the end, I decided that the one hour test was preferable to me over learning how to monitor my blood glucose levels on my own and do it for several days. But I encourage everyone to pick the best option for them!
My midwife provided very clear instructions on how to proceed with the test day, and if you are doing the alternative test, make sure you discuss all parameters with your healthcare provider. My rules were no carbs after midnight the day before the test, no carbs with breakfast (this would include avocado), and then drink 50 grams of carbohydrates in juice form in 10 minutes completed an hour before my scheduled blood draw. The juice had to have no more than 2 grams difference between the sugar and carbs level (surprisingly difficult to find!)
Lots of people choose apple juice, but I chose Santa Cruz Organics Cranberry Nectar since I am not a huge apple juice fan. I drank 11 ounces equaling 49.5 grams of carbohydrates (I emailed my midwife in advance to check that the 0.5 gram discrepancy was okay).
For breakfast, I had 3 pastured eggs scrambled in lots of ghee and two slices of uncured SUGAR-FREE bacon. This is not an unusual breakfast for me, though I normally have some sweet potatoes as well. I also skipped my workout since I read this could skew the results. Right after finishing breakfast, I drank the juice. I did not chug it, but gave myself the whole 10 minutes to drink it.
I then went to my appointment with snacks in hand. While a sugar high isn’t fun, a sugar crash is worse. I brought snacks to help even myself out post-test. I expected to feel jittery and have a racing heart, but I handled it better than expected! Baby moved more than normal, but not crazy! After my blood draw and appointment, I had a couple bites of an energy bar, and then had lunch (quinoa, veggies and chicken) about 4.5 hours after I drank the juice.
I felt extra energy, so I used it to get things done around the house before settling in to work.
I passed! I actually went into hypoglycemia (low blood sugar as marked my levels below 70) within the hour, which my midwife said showed my body was not used to consuming so much sugar. I think having the snacks quickly after my test really helped me not feel the effect of this, especially since my snacks and lunch were balanced with plenty of protein and fats.