Along for the Ride: Glucose Testing
Around 26 weeks gestation every single pregnant woman ever to live must submit to the form of torture known as the gestational glucose tolerance testing. This ancient form of torment includes stomaching a 10 ounce bottle of sugary sweet syrup in under 5 minutes (chug, chug, chug!) and then keeping it down for an hour. Then, a quick and simple blood pull tells you whether or not you have come down with gestational diabetes.
Okay. Okay… it’s not torture. At least not for me. I actually kind of like the orange flavored syrup. It reminds me of High C- orange punch from McDonalds when the mix is a bit unbalanced and you get a tad more syrup than water. Yum. I really can’t comprehend why so many pregnant women make such a big deal over it.
The real torture comes later… when, as happened to me in this test, your glucose levels are just a little elevated. Not enough elevation to support a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, but enough elevation that you need to submit to a longer version of the test.
This Saturday I spent close to 4 hours in my local diagnostic blood center with a ravenous vampire (fine, she was a phlebotomist) and even more of that orange syrup. I’ve had to submit to the three hour test once before in my life, in my second biological pregnancy. In that instance, I had to consume 30 ounces of the syrup over 3 hours. Fair to say that by the end of THAT day, my sweet tooth was satisfied for the next year and I did find the syrup at least unsatisfying… if not entirely gross.
Anyway, I digress. Apparently the test has changed a bit over the last 5 years, and this time I only had to consume the 10 ounces of syrup and then submit to 4 blood pulls over the course of about three and a half hours. The idea is to see how your body first reacts to the sugar flood, and then how it manages the increased glucose. If your blood glucose levels stay high, that supports a diagnosis of gestational diabetes. However, if your body is able to break down the glucose over the three hour test period, you’re considered just fine.
If I were to fail this test, it’d mean a lot of new things for me. It’d be my first diagnosis of gestational diabetes (in 4 pregnancies) and mean a whole new diet, and possibly medications, over the duration of the pregnancy. The good news would be that, for nearly all women diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the diagnosis would vanish along with the pregnancy. This is rarely a diagnosis that means much at all for the future health of the woman carrying the child. Some studies have suggested that acquiring GD during pregnancies may increase your likelihood of developing type two diabetes later in life, but those studies are pretty unsubstantiated at this point; from what my weekend internet Google searching showed, anyway.
Flash forward to Monday, and the call comes. It’s gestational diabetes.
No one WANTS a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, even if it’s not the end of the world to get one. But with the difficulties I’ve already had getting enough of ANY type of food into me (due to lack of appetite and available stomach space), I was really unexcited about the idea of new restrictions on my diet. I’ll be the first to admit, I took the news hard. Very hard.
As a surrogate I felt like my body had failed its mission. I felt like my intended parents would blame me, maybe even be angry with me. I kind of retreated into a hole for about 48 hours. I did a lot of crying.
But then I woke up and realized, you know what? I’ve done the very best I can in this pregnancy. And the risk of gestational diabetes goes up with both age and occurrence of a multiples pregnancy… so the odds were sort of stacked against me. And sometimes it just snows in July. This isn’t my fault, and it shouldn’t determine how I see myself or comprehend my worth.
So this Wednesday I woke up, got dressed, and decided to attack this new element of my journey with a bold, brave face. I’ll keep doing the very best I can for these babies and for myself.
And, as a side note to those previously diagnosed with gestational diabetes and considering surrogacy, the diagnosis doesn’t have to end your dreams of being a surrogate. In most cases, so long as the diabetes was controlled with diet and exercise, your journey can still move forward.