Angelica: Contributing to Research on Gestational Diabetes Mellitus
Thirty-two-year-old Angelica is a teacher in the Chicago Public School system, and she recently graduated with a master’s degree in English as a Second Language, to complement her first master’s degree in Urban Education. “I’m the type of person who has to stay busy all the time!” she says. For the first 8 years of her career, Angelica taught seventh graders before transitioning out of the classroom and into a leadership role managing her school’s bilingual program. After spending this first part of her career helping children, she decided the time was right to have a little one of her own, and she became pregnant with her first child in the summer of 2021.
At Angelica’s first pre-natal doctor’s appointment, medical staff approached her about enrolling in the Glycemic Observation and Metabolic Outcomes in Mothers and Offspring (GO MOMs) study at Northwestern University. Diabetes runs in her family, and Angelica started thinking about the impact that gestational diabetes (GDM), if she were to develop it, could have on her and her baby’s health. She wanted to do whatever she could to navigate her pregnancy as healthfully as possible. “Pregnancy can be scary. But the more information we have, the more we can advocate for the little humans inside of us. This is a service to my little one,” Angelica says. She also acknowledged a heartbreaking reason she wanted to participate in this study—her partner of 8 years recently passed away from stage 4 cancer. He was a staunch proponent of research and had recognized the importance of people participating in clinical studies to advance medicine. In honor of him, she made the commitment to join GO MOMs. Angelica had advocated for her partner’s health throughout his treatment, and now she wanted to do the same for their baby. And so, her journey through pregnancy and the GO MOMs study began.
“Studies like GO MOMs empower us as pregnant women to have access to information, resources, and support that allow us to advocate for our little ones throughout the entire pregnancy,” says Angelica.
As a standard part of the study protocol, Angelica traveled to the study site at Northwestern several times throughout her pregnancy to be fitted with a continuous glucose monitor. A continuous glucose monitor measures blood sugar levels every 5 minutes. The device used in this study is about the size of a large coin, and it adheres to the body for 10 days. After 10 days, she simply returned it to the study site by mail for analysis or she dropped it off at one of her scheduled appointments. Angelica said these study site visits were always very quick and hassle-free. While the monitor did fall off twice, requiring her to return to have another one put on, she says she didn’t mind because she knew how important this information gathering was to the success of the study. Also, as part of the protocol, she had two separate oral glucose tolerance tests—one test early on and one later in the pregnancy. This test required her to drink a sugary beverage and measured how well her body processed the ingested sugar. While Angelica didn’t care for the taste of the drink much at all, during the final test she felt her baby move. “It was so rewarding knowing I was doing this to protect the health of my baby,” she shared.
“They were great at making me feel important. I felt they genuinely cared about me and my little human,” says Angelica, referring to the GO MOMs study staff.
Throughout her participation, only the study staff had access to the blood sugar data, and Angelica did not see the test results. Test results were only released to a participant if the results showed that she developed GDM. Thankfully, Angelica had a smooth pregnancy and never developed GDM. In May 2022, she delivered a healthy baby boy. Study staff were at the hospital to record her newborn baby’s physical measurements including birth weight, length, and skinfolds (a fast, non-invasive method to explore infant nutritional status).
In describing her experience with study staff, Angelica says “they were great at making me feel important. I felt they genuinely cared about me and my little human … there was a strong relationship built over a short amount of time.” She added that many people don’t enjoy going to the doctor, “but I loved going to all of my GO MOMs appointments. When my participation ended at delivery, I thought ‘I’m really going to miss you!’”
Reflecting upon her experience in this study, Angelica says she realizes how fortunate she was to have had access to this type of research that many others do not. “Studies like GO MOMs empower us as pregnant women to have access to information, resources, and support that allow us to advocate for our little ones throughout the entire pregnancy,” she remarked. Results from GO MOMs are expected to shed critical new light on how blood sugar levels change throughout pregnancy, toward improving GDM diagnosis and treatment.
“It was so rewarding knowing I was doing this to protect the health of my baby,” says Angelica, speaking about her participation in the GO MOMs study.
Angelica is back to work now and plans to take a couple of years off from furthering her education to enjoy being a mom. But her ambition knows no bounds. In the future, she plans to pursue doctoral studies and achieve her dream of becoming a school principal. As both a dedicated educator and a research participant in the GO MOMs study, Angelica has already had a tremendous impact on future generations.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.