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Week by Week

A Jelly Bean Glucose Test

(American Baby, p.6, April 1996)

A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that jelly beans may be used to administer glucose tests during pregnancy. If you've ever tasted the cloyingly sweet cola beverage that is normally given for glucose tests, this news will come as a welcome surprise. Ten to 15 percent of pregnant women who are given the beverage either vomit from it or refuse to drink all of it, so they never get tested adequately. Side effects other than vomiting may include nausea without vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating, and profuse sweating.

A glucose test usually is given between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, to screen for gestational diabetes. This condition, triggered by hormonal changes during pregnancy, affects about two to three percent of pregnant women. Most cases disappear on their own after pregnancy, but the disorder needs to be treated during pregnancy nonetheless. Left untreated, it greatly increases the chance of serious complications for both mother and baby. With treatment such risks are greatly reduced.

Obstetricians at St. John Hospital Medical Center, in Detroit, gave 157 women a glucose test with the typical cola beverage. Blood glucose was tested after one hour. Within two weeks after the test, the doctors administered another glucose test, but substituted 18 jelly beans for the drink. Again, blood glucose was tested after an hour.

The jelly-bean test turned out to be as accurate a predictor of gestational diabetes as the beverage test. What's more, the jelly beans caused almost no side effects (a tiny percentage of women experienced nausea or a headache), and 87.9 percent of the women preferred them to the cola drink.

Jelly beans are not yet offered as a routine alternative to the cola drink. But you can ask your doctor whether he is familiar with this study, and whether he would be willing to use jelly beans as outlined in the study.
Copyright © 1996, 1997 by Childbirth.org All rights reserved.