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Why Should I Take a Glucose Tolerance Test during Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: T. Broderick
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2018
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Taking a glucose tolerance test during pregnancy is necessary to protect both the mother and fetus. Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs in a small percentage of pregnant women. Diagnosed during a glucose tolerance test during pregnancy, the condition is treatable for the remaining months of pregnancy. Not treating it can lead to long-lasting consequences for mother and child.

Gestational diabetes is one of three forms of diabetes. It occurs when a pregnant woman's pancreas does not secrete sufficient insulin in response to naturally higher blood glucose levels. The condition develops in 5-10% of pregnancies, with the chances being higher if the woman is overweight or has a history of type two diabetes. Symptoms are identical to that of type two diabetes: excessive thirst and/or increased urination. In most cases, though, the condition is asymptomatic and diagnosed during a glucose tolerance test.

The glucose tolerance test during pregnancy is identical to the test used to diagnose type one and two diabetes. A woman has a series of blood tests over several hours, before and after ingesting a small amount of pure glucose. If pancreatic function is normal, the body responds by releasing excess insulin and test results do not show a spike in blood glucose. With gestational diabetes, blood glucose remains higher than normal. Test results are generally available before a woman leaves the physician's office.

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Most pregnant women who regularly visit their obstetrician have the test during their third trimester. If a woman does not have access to proper medical care, gestational diabetes can have a detrimental effect for mother and child. Children born to women with the untreated condition are more likely to have either low or high birth weight; the latter can necessitate Caesarian section. After pregnancy, mother and child have a greater chance of developing type two diabetes. As of 2011, research into the connection between untreated gestational diabetes and other conditions is under way.

Treating gestational diabetes is similar to treating types one and two diabetes. A woman will need to change her diet, cutting out carbohydrates and sugar; the goal of dietary change is to prevent spikes in blood glucose. Light exercise is sometimes recommended along with regular measuring of blood glucose levels. In very rare cases, medication and/or injecting insulin may be necessary. Taking these steps greatly reduces the likelihood of the side effects described in the previous paragraph.

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