It's science: The glucose test is safe for pregnant women—but there are alternatives if you want them

One right of passage for any pregnancy is the screening between weeks 24 and 28 for Gestational Diabetes (GD), a condition in which women without a history of diabetes have high blood sugar levels as a result of the pregnancy.

Mamas-to-be are advised by their doctor or midwife to take the Glucose Challenge Test (GTC), when you drink a liquid containing 50-gram glucose, wait an hour and then have your blood drawn. While you don't have to prep, it is advised to avoid eating too many carbs or sugar the night before to ensure a more accurate assessment is obtained. The GTC has become the gold standard in determining if the body has difficulty metabolizing the intake of sugar and diabetes mellitus or if an insulin resistance has developed, and whether further testing is needed.


The American Diabetes Association estimates that gestational diabetes occurs in up to 9.2% of pregnancies in the United States, which makes a strong case for employing the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT).

What is in the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test?

Glucola is a standard brand of OGTT glucose solution prescribed by doctors and midwives that does not have adverse effects other than some rare cases of intolerance (nausea, bloating, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, and fatigue). However, some ingredients in it have caused a bit of an alarm, specifically brominated vegetable oil (BVO). It's used as a flame retardant, contains artificial flavors, coloring, and high fructose corn syrup. BVO is also a food stabilizer used in soda drinks to help keep citrus-flavor oils suspended and prevent them from floating to the top of the liquid, at about 8 parts per million. This ingredient is also banned as a food additive in Europe and Japan.

The FDA's response to the concerns about BVO is that it is a safe additive and does not exceed the recommended maximum dose of 15 ppm (parts per million). By this standard, you would have to consume several liters of beverages to have any negative effect.

But, some mamas-to-be are still concerned about consuming this concoction—worrying, having read that BVO affects the body and presents potential negative health effects similar to brominated flame retardants, like accumulating in body fat, the brain, the liver, and other organs, and affecting behavior and cognitive skills in children. However, studies in rats performed decades ago that confirmed that BVO is transferred from mother's milk to the nursing offspring also demonstrated the occurrence only after ingesting megadoses of the chemical.

Are there alternatives to the Gestational Diabetes test?

If the ingredients in Glucola bother you, know that you may have alternatives, like refusing the drink and choosing a different test like the jelly bean test, candy twist test or the Hemoglobin A1C test and finger stick blood testing. However, some doctors and midwives may not support this, and a 2017 Cochrane Library metastudy indicates that it is inconclusive whether any are better than the standard GTC.

There is also a clear Glucola drink available that does not have the food dye and coloring.

There are many risks to mother and child if gestational diabetes develops. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to macrosomia (having a larger-sized baby) complications that put you and baby at risk before and after delivery, premature delivery, and other conditions, like preeclampsia. So getting screened is a good idea. But ultimately, you have the right to make choices over what goes into your body, whether you are pregnant or not. ACOG has affirmed that mothers with gestational diabetes have the right to individualized care and the right to refuse care.

Bottom line: You have a choice whether to partake of this glucose drink, or opt for other ways to measure, or not at all. If BVO concerns you, choose an alternative form of testing for gestational diabetes.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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