Diabetes is a condition where a person has too much glucose in the blood. Gestational Diabetes occurs during pregnancy and usually goes away after the baby is born. The Pregnancy Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (POGTT) refers to routine screening conducted between 24 to 28 weeks’ gestation to assess how the body responds to a glucose load. Pregnancy can affect the body’s ability to break down glucose and higher than normal blood glucose levels from this test may diagnose Gestational Diabetes.
I recently attended my POGTT in my fourth pregnancy. Firstly, the test requires booking in with your local pathology clinic so they can advise you of attendance and fasting times. The POGTT is a series of blood tests that require fasting for eight hours prior to the test, however water is encouraged. Typically, pregnant women are prioritised for a morning appointment and the duration of stay at the pathology centre to complete the test is about three hours. Be prepared for the long haul by taking a book, laptop, or something to keep you occupied. Also remember a snack to eat at the completion of the test as some women may feel a little faint or dizzy after fasting for so long. If you have other children, my tip would be to arrange this test when they are able to be cared for as the lengthy stay may cause them to lose interest very quickly. In fact, additional movement chasing kids or added stress can alter or increase blood glucose levels. This test involves a lot of sitting, waiting and clock watching.
I was advised to attend my clinic at 8am and to fast from midnight. No breakfast was allowed but water is necessary to ensure adequate hydration. Following the completion of all the formalities and identification checks, the first blood test was taken. Immediately afterwards, I was given a small bottle that looked like lemonade. Don’t be fooled! It is a 300ml bottle of 75grams pure glucose. I was required to drink the whole bottle in five minutes. There are many mixed reviews about the taste. Some women don’t mind it, whereas others feel quite nauseous as their body is not used to such a big sugar hit over a short period of time. Personally, I find it bearable initially, but the last few mouthfuls are more of a struggle. Remember if you do feel unwell, advise the care provider as you will have the option of lying down.
Once the drink is consumed, the timer begins, and the waiting starts! The countdown commences until the next blood test that measures your blood glucose level exactly one hour after consuming the glucose drink. It is recommended to wait in the pathology centre and be prepared with activities that will make the time pass quickly. Read a book, answer emails, close your eyes, rest! I remember taking a book to read during my POGTT with my first child and to this day almost four babies later, that book remains unfinished!
Following the completion of the one-hour blood test, the timer is recommenced. The next hour of waiting involves the most clock watching awaiting the third and final blood test. Hunger starts to set in a little more and my packed snacks were becoming more tempting. By now, I couldn’t really concentrate looking at a computer screen or book, so I passed the time by closing my eyes and listening to music. When the timer alarm sounded, the final blood test was attended. I was encouraged to eat my snacks, asked how I was feeling and then I drove home. It is important to be aware of your body, the need to rest more if needed or have someone available to drive you home if you are feeling unwell.
The results of the POGTT are available within a few days by making an appointment with your doctor.
Tips to remember:
- Ask your doctor for a pathology form prior to the test and take this with you.
- Make an appointment at the pathology clinic between 24 to 28 weeks’ gestation.
- Follow advice and fast 8 hours prior to test, continue to drink water and remain hydrated.
- The test takes approximately three hours and involves three blood tests. A fasting blood test, the consumption of a glucose drink, and further blood tests at one and two hours later.
- Most pathology centres require you to stay at the clinic for the duration of the test to reduce unnecessary movement and the possibility of receiving inaccurate results.
- Take a snack to eat at the completion of the test.
- Be prepared with a book, laptop, or music to keep you entertained.
- Some women may feel nauseous, have someone available to drive you home if needed.
- Go alone and without other children if possible as it is a time-consuming process.
- Remember you don’t know how you will feel afterwards so a rest day may be exactly what is needed!
Discuss your individual circumstances with your health care professional.