One of the regular blood tests pregnant women are offered in around week 23-28 is a gestational diabetes check. I am taking all the tests and following all the suggestions the midwives are giving so I moseyed on over to the blood clinic after my final exam of the semester.
I have been using the What to Expect (When You’re Expecting) app for weekly updates and for forum discussions throughout my pregnancy so had seen lots of people discussing their tests and experiences, so felt kind of prepared for the test, and knew there wasn’t anything to do to physically prepare or to stress about. I knew I would arrive, they would give me a glucose drink which most people found gross but some people enjoyed, and then after one hour I’d have my blood drawn.
Arriving at around 11am I had just had a cereal bar as my stomach was beginning to growl, and I did feel the effects of low blood sugar as I waited in line to be let into the clinic. I am notorious for being a bit grumpy when my blood sugar drops and hunger strikes, so this isn’t a particularly new feeling, and it was a warm day so that contributed too. After a drink of water and sitting in the cooler waiting room I felt a little better. Once called in I was advised to drink the 75cl of glucose water within five minutes and then I could wait in the waiting room or my car until an hour had passed when I would go back in to have my blood taken. The clinician also said that some women do throw up after drinking the solution and to let them know if that happened. I decided to drink it slow… it didn’t taste too bad, it was just sugary water so a bit odd but not as bad as many had suggested.
I initially decided to wait in the waiting room, but after 15 minutes I realised the chairs are not very comfortable so went out to wait in the car. I have no anxiety over having my blood drawn as long as I don’t have to look at it happening – I typically have been quite difficult to get blood out of, but since being pregnant each of my blood draws has been dead easy. Same here! I even remarked to the clinician taking the blood and she suggested it was because that’s all they do every day so they are experts. Makes sense.
The next day I had a call from my midwife saying that I had failed the glucose test by a few points so would have to do the more thorough follow up. This meant fasting for 10 hours, having an initial blood draw, drinking the same glucose mixture, waiting an hour, having my blood drawn, then waiting another hour before the final draw. The midwife suggested I do it ASAP and to book an early appointment if possible to avoid fasting longer than necessary. That was a Friday so I went the following Monday – appointment weren’t available but I booked my place in line in advance and turned up at 11am, feeling hungry but otherwise ok.
The clinician took my first blood sample and then handed me the drink, I actually found it more palatable this time – perhaps because I was hungry! The clinician told me I could drink water if I had to but advised it was better if I didn’t. I had prepared this time, bringing my iPad loaded with reading material, and sat in my car from the beginning – it was a nice day so I sat in the passenger seat with the window open and watched an episode of Sabrina on Netflix the first hour, occasionally sipping water to quench the belly rumbles. I went back in, skipping the queue and straight into have my blood drawn. The clinician found a decent vein in my right arm this time which I was impressed with once again.
For the second hour I again sat in the car with the window open but caught up on emails and filled in some course evaluation forms, taking a few sips of water here and there. Marching back into the clinic and going straight into the room again I felt like I had totally handled the whole shabang pretty well and hadn’t found it stressful or fainted or anything like I had read previous women had. The clinician looked at my arms seeing both sides had already been tried, and went with the left side – the stronger vein. But nothing came. She moved to my right arm and tried again there, I made the mistake of looking at one point and the needle was deep in my arm but with nothing coming out. “Oh no. Please don’t make me repeat the whole experience again…” was going through my mind. Policy says no one clinician can poke more than twice, so the lady went and got someone else. This lady tied the tourniquets much tighter on my arms as she felt around for a vein. She told me I was probably quite dehydrated by this point which is common with these tests, but she eventually settled on the left arm again and managed to get what she needed.
I left feeling like a pin cushion, just hoping for conclusive, preferably negative results to the test. I shovelled a packet of crisps into my face and took a much bigger drink of water before driving home for lunch.
I got a call from the midwife the next telling me I had slightly elevated numbers on two of the tests so would be referred to the diabetes clinic at BC Women’s Hospital. Dang it. Researching Gestational diabetes though, it turns out that around
1 in 3 9% (correction) women test positive and most of the time it is managed through diet and exercise. It usually occurs as a result of hormonal changes from the placenta’s presence in the body. So although it wasn’t the conclusion I wanted to hear, I wasn’t too worried. But then I started reading about how it can affect the baby, and reading that she might get really big because of the excess sugar in my system and as a result in hers too. Apparently some GD positive women are induced between weeks 37-39 because of the baby’s size. And it can also affect the baby’s lungs if they start producing too much insulin. After reading more and more about it, it seems that those side effects are less frequent and I was starting to panic about realities that would likely never come to pass.
I have appointments at BC Women’s to meet with specialists and dieticians to make a meal plan and talk through exercise and lifestyle choices to support GD, I think I will also be given a finger prick test kit to check my blood sugar levels throughout the day. I have a midwife appointment where they’ll measure me to see how big our baby girl is currently looking. Apparently if she’s measuring quite large I may get sent for another ultrasound to check on her size.
All in all, it’s a bummer to be diagnosed with GD and it will make the next 10ish weeks harder in terms of having to meal and snack plan every day and with the finger pricking, but in reality it’s only for the next 10ish weeks and once my hormones return to “normal” then it should go away. I’d only just started eating chocolate again about four weeks ago, and enjoying sweet treats, so it’ll be an annoyance to have to avoid them. Especially cold Starbucks drinks in the warmer summer months! But, I will just have to make healthier choices, which is better for me in the long run anyways…