Prenatal testing can be a multi-edged sword. Usually, test results are reassuring, which puts expectant parents’ minds at ease. But some people argue that because birth defects are rare, these tests in most cases cause undue stress; others argue that they allow people to create “designer” children. Then there are the parents who discover very real, sometimes dire, problems with their babies and face the decision of whether to keep or terminate a pregnancy.
A study of nearly 1 million pregnant U.S. women shows that up to one-third are not being screened for gestational diabetes and could develop this condition while they're expecting without even knowing it, USA Today reports.
A lack of diagnosis means that the diabetes is not being treated, which puts these babies at risk.
Sorry for the headline, but I'm writing this as I sit waiting to get my blood drawn for my glucose screening test. I'd forgotten just how disgusting that sweet syrupy stuff is that they make you drink an hour before getting bloodwork done. I asked the midwife during my appointment to explain the process to me again--if they're testing my glucose, why pour straight corn syrup down my throat?--and she said that it's a "challenge test," to see if my body can handle the insulin. Or something. I was stuck on "challenge test." "Do you guys have a ropes course out back, too?" I asked.
I got another sad email this week from a grandmother. Kristen's daughter is pregnant with her second baby. The first, I'm very sad to report, died at birth. Kristen says the baby was born very underweight (only 4 pounds) but not premature. There was a lot of meconium and the placenta was very small. Kristen's daughter has hypothyroidism but took excellent care of her health throughout her pregnancy. Still, tragedy hit hard. Now that she's expecting her second baby, it's impossible not to feel anxious about losing another baby.
Step 1: The Glucose Challenge
You drink a concentrated glucose beverage, then wait an hour for a blood test. If your one-hour blood-sugar level is more than 140 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of plasma (mg/dL) but less than 200 mg/dL, you'll be referred to Step 2 for a more definitive diagnosis. If it exceeds 200, you'll be diagnosed with GDM and won't need further testing.
Laura Randolph 30, California
Laura's tips for dealing with a potentially problematic pregnancy:
•Talk to friends about your situation--they may have dealt with a similar dilemma.
•If you're dealing with AFP test results, focus on the statistics that show a high number of false positives.
•Try not to let your emotions get the best of you or to allow worries to spiral out of control.