There are many scary risks during pregnancy. The scariest can be the Glucose Challenge Test to check if you’ve developed gestational diabetes. See what you're in for, and how keeping a food journal can help.
There have been many scary risks I’ve overcome during my first pregnancy, such as risk of miscarriage, a genetics testing, and the anatomy scan. But the scariest thus far was The Glucose Challenge Test. This occurs around the 24th week to check if you’ve developed gestational diabetes, a condition that affects your body's ability to effectively process sugar.
How the test works is you drink five ounces of a Glucose solution and fast for an hour (plus the three hours beforehand), then have your blood drawn to test for its blood-sugar level. If the concentration of sugar in your blood is greater than 140 mg/dL, you have to take a Glucose Tolerance Test. And if you thought the first test sounded bad, this one requires you to fast before and during the three-hour test, during which you have your blood drawn every hour.
To add more pressure, my dad had just been published in the textbook, Metabolic Syndrome and Complications of Pregnancy, a how-to on the necessary practical diet advice to tip the scale in favor of the unborn child.
I had to pass this test. Failing meant taking a more terrible version of this test, and worse, the daughter of The Zone would get lectured on proper nutrition for her gestational diabetes. “Oh, the shame I’d bring to the family name,” I thought.
I asked my fittest, thinnest friends about their experience, and most said they’d failed their glucose challenge. Although some claimed genetics were to blame, others were pretty shocked. If these ladies couldn’t cut it, what chance did I have?
But then I remembered, I have genetics on my side, and more importantly, I’ve been following The Zone Diet since I was 10 years old.
I had been doing fairly well in my pregnancy diet thus far -- the only evils were pizza and ice cream. But even when my hormones would win over (like in my 20th week when I entered an ice-cream-eating contest and devoured a pint of Chubby Hubby in 10 minutes; then had two slices of pizza an hour later), I’d hear my dad’s words, “You’re only one meal away from being in the Zone”.
Regardless of my pedigree, I had to buckle down on my food intake. I’ve read countless articles and books (including this textbook) that my dad’s written over the years on prenatal nutrition with an emphasis on fetal programming. And I know that my impending son is in the process of inheriting all of my epigenetic marks through my nutritional intake or lack thereof. I’m also well aware of the role of inflammation in metabolic syndrome and many other chronic diseases and inflammation created by over-consumption of omega-6 fatty acids. I know all the keys to good nutrition; I just had to apply them to my own diet, whether or not I was eating for two.
So I first took a page out of our Clinical Trials Director, Mary Dinehart Perry’s, lifestyle playbook and kept a food journal. Once you see everything written down, it’s far easier to access what foods can stay and what foods can be swapped for a healthier alternative.
- Breakfast - 2 egg whites and cheese between 2 slices of Sandwich Thins (sorry, dad!)
- Lunch - 1 cup Zone Pasta with half a handful of grated Parmesan
- Beverages - 64 oz. water (because "oh, the pregnancy headaches") 2 decaf iced coffees, each with one Splenda
- Snacks (2)- Handful of grapes and half a handful of almonds
- Dinner - 3-4 oz. of pan-seared chicken, salmon or pork with an assortment of vegetables (probably a pound)
- Dessert - half a bar of dark chocolate with almonds (or ice cream - the hormones want what the hormones want)
What popped out were the sandwich thins (surprise), the Splendas, and the grapes (because one handful would usually lead to another, or as my dad refers to it “fruit binging”). So in the two weeks leading up to the test, I altered my menu:
- Breakfast - A 3 egg-white frittata (or scramble if I was short on time) with one bell pepper and one handful of baby spinach
- Lunch - 1 cup Zone PastaRx with half a handful of grated Parmesan.
- Beverages - 64 oz. water, 2 decaf iced coffees, each with half a Splenda (I’m only human)
- Snacks (2) - 2 servings of hummus deviled eggs (2)
- Dinner (same with more veggies) - 3-4 oz. of pan seared Chicken, Salmon or Pork with an assortment of vegetables (closer to a pound and a half)
- Dessert- ½ cup Blueberries and ½ cup plain yogurt
As for exercise, my dad will tell you that exercise alone will not make you healthy; it must be combined with an anti-inflammatory diet, coupled with omega-3s and polyphenols (both are a daily routine). That said, my fitness routine is swimming four times a week and a prenatal strength-training class. Believe me five days a week feels like 20 when you factor in a sore everything and lingering pregnancy fatigue.
So I stayed vigilant on my eating and workout routines for two weeks. Then the weekend before my test, I opted for vegetables instead of fruit. It's unclear if this is necessary, but I was not failing this test. That weekend proved difficult because my friend was moving, and everywhere I went there was a “We’ll Miss You” ice-cream cake. Like a vampire to blood, I could smell the sugar of each cake (there were three) fill my nostrils. But like I said, I was NOT failing this test and ran thrice from temptation.
The morning of the test, I cut out veggies as well. This is also probably not necessary, from everything I’ve read, you can have a meal in the morning if your test is in the afternoon, but I. WAS. NOT. FAILING. THIS. TEST. So I opted for just a 4-egg-white scramble and had herbal tea instead of coffee to avoid the milk and Splenda. I then went to my prenatal exercise class to avoid further temptation of food. But right outside my gym, a TV show was being filmed (very common in Brooklyn) and wouldn’t you know it, there was a craft services table just outside the class, and they were making SMOOTHIES! Although I did refrain from running over and knocking all their blenders over, I did comment aloud, “Are you kidding me?!?” But like I had from the ice cream cakes, I again ran from the table of “insulin spikers” and got to my doctor’s office unscathed.
They gave me the glucose concoction to drink, which I did in one gulp, only to be told, "It can make people sick if they drink it too fast, so don’t throw up." A check up and Tdap Vaccine shot later (what a painful way to pass the time), the hour had passed. They drew my blood and sent me on my way, instructing me they’d call in two days only if I had failed, but for today, I could eat what I want. I picked up a pint of Chubby Hubby at the deli by my apartment and devoured the whole thing. As I slipped into unconsciousness, I murmured, “You’re only one meal away from being in the Zone”.
Epilogue: I am happy to report that I PASSED my Glucose Challenge Test! My score ended up being 119 (anything over 140 is a failing grade). And my Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) Test score was 5.1%, which according to the textbook, is indicative of an anti-inflammatory diet. I’ve also been able to maintain my healthier alternatives and have not touched ice cream since I went off the rails after my GCT (good GCT scores mean nothing if you just go back to unhealthy habits). Here’s hoping I can keep up the good work throughout the rest of my pregnancy and the first years of my son’s life because, “The more closely a mother follows an anti-inflammatory diet, the better the future outcome for the child.”