Managing gestational diabetes
When Jessica Brens of Lake Zurich, Ill., started feeling dizzy and lightheaded towards the beginning of her first pregnancy, she had a sense that something wasn’t right. She went to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital to get her blood glucose levels checked. It wasn’t until after a second test that she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman’s body is unable to produce the right amount of insulin, which therefore leads to high blood sugar levels. Unlike what the statistics have shown for women who have a higher risk factor for gestational diabetes, Brens was not overweight and had no history of diabetes in her family.
“I considered myself a healthy person at the time, so I didn’t think it could happen to me,” Brens says.
Virginia Menzimer, a registered nurse and diabetes nurse educator at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in the Diabetes Care Center, provides patients with answers and guidance to manage their gestational diabetes and was particularly helpful to Brens during her pregnancy.
“Most women with gestational diabetes who come into our Diabetes Care Center are panicked with valid concerns about healthy blood glucose levels, developing a better meal plan and the need for increased physical activity as tolerated,” Menzimer says.
“I never felt any questions were silly,” Brens says. “There were times I found myself worried or stressed, but I knew I could call Virginia at any time, and she always had helpful advice.”
According to Dr. Daniel So, an endocrinologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, most women with gestational diabetes give birth to a healthy baby by following these important steps throughout the pregnancy:
- Keep blood glucose levels in a target range that is healthy for you and the baby.
- Eat healthy meals based on an individualized plan, which usually includes a balance of food groups, providing nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
- Engage in daily, moderate physical activity to maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy.
“These patients need to keep a log of their blood sugar four times a day,” says Dr. So. “We closely monitor their sugars to make sure they are having a healthy pregnancy and their baby will be healthy at birth.”
Gestational diabetes typically disappears in the mother immediately after the baby is born. However, babies of mothers with gestational diabetes tend to be bigger in size and do have a predisposition for diabetes later in life explains Dr. So.
Although no one wishes to have gestational diabetes, Brens learned a lot from her experience. The majority of mothers with gestational diabetes will go back to normal blood sugar levels immediately after birth. Even though this was the case for Brens, she decided she was going to continue to watch her sugar intake.
“I feel the healthiest I have ever felt in my life,” says Brens. “After having to eat a certain way and monitor my sugars through my pregnancy, it has now become a part of my daily lifestyle.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.