There are many challenges that women living with diabetes face daily. One issue in particular specifically relates to reproductive health. Believe it or not, a diabetes diagnosis can significantly impact the timing of a young women’s menarche, contraception options, fertility and menopause. Here are a few ways that diabetes can affect women’s reproductive health along with a few tips on how you can maintain a healthy reproductive system while having diabetes.
Diabetes May Affect the Timing of Menarche
When it comes to women’s reproductive health, type 1 and type 2 diabetes directly affect menarche (the first occurrence of menstruation) as well as the overall menstruation cycle for women. For example, if a young girl is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before menarche, there’s a higher risk of a delayed first menstrual cycle further into her adolescent years. On the flip side, if menstruation is delayed further into adolescents without a diabetes diagnosis present, this is often an early indicator that type 2 can be developed in early adulthood. Additionally, if a girl begins to menstruate and is diagnosed with diabetes after menarche, she has a heightened risk for menstruation irregularities, which can lead to problems with fertility when she’s ready to have children. These obstacles are even greater when there is a weak glycemic control present, especially if a young woman is unaware of her diagnosis. Menstruation will be affected until her glycemic control is back on track. If there is a family history of diabetes, it would be best to test for diabetes regularly. If you are the parent of a daughter with diabetes, you’ll want to be aware of all consequences that will affect her later in all stages of life to help her to take the right precautions as soon as possible.
Some Contraception Methods Disturb Diabetes Management
Whether you use contraception methods to avoid unplanned pregnancy, regulate periods, or to ease menstrual cramps, it is important to consider how birth control can impact effectively managing a diagnosis and living with diabetes. The primary concern is how hormonal contraception options affect vascular and metabolic states for women with diabetes. Hormonal contraception stops ovulation and changes cervical mucus to make it harder for sperm to get to the eggs. When diabetes is present, there are precautions to take when choosing. For a woman in her adolescent years living with diabetes, a birth control pill with a low-dose of estrogen or progestin hormones combined with careful metabolic monitoring is likely the right path as added hormones make it more difficult to manage diabetes. Typically, using hormone-driven contraceptives methods increases your blood sugar which makes it harder to regulate levels, which will affect fertility later. Safer contraception options for these women would be intrauterine devices or IUDs, some of which have hormones, but others use copper to kill off sperm. The copper IUD is a safe option for women with diabetes as it won’t interfere with the endocrine system and glucose metabolism. All women with diabetes have options to help prevent pregnancy. It’s important to take careful consideration when making choices that support diabetes and overall reproductive health accurately.
Fertility Can Be Impacted by Diabetes
Before a woman with diabetes decides to become a mom, she must phase out of any contraceptive use, and ensure blood sugar levels remain stable. When there is poor glycemic control, and frequent blood sugar spikes are present, there is often an increase in insulin production, which will disrupt fertility. In short, the added insulin hormone will make it harder for ovarian hormones to do their job, resulting in a lower production of reproductive hormones. However, there are many ways to boost fertility and have a healthy and safe pregnancy even when you have diabetes. Eating lots of protein and nutrients can help keep your blood sugar stable. This will help ensure that your fertility won’t be affected by your diabetes.
Diabetes Can Affect the Menopause Transition
Another leading part under the women’s reproductive health umbrella is menopause. Menopause is when a woman’s egg production slows down, the release of hormones decreases, and their reproductive system essentially comes to a halt. During this transition, menopause and diabetes combined can raise complications. First, menopause increases women’s risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, both of which patients with diabetes are likely to develop. When diabetes is present during the menopause transition, it’s crucial to ensure your heart and arteries are healthy. Next, there is a heightened risk for a woman’s chance of vaginal and urinary infection, specifically yeast and urinary tract infections. To guarantee it’s a smooth transition to menopause with diabetes:
- Monitor blood glucose levels frequently
- Discuss with your doctor if insulin or medication adjustments are needed
- Engage in regular physical activity
- Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet
- Measure blood pressure regularly
- Keep track of significant changes in weight
Women should work with their healthcare professionals to ensure that they are making the healthiest transition to menopause while keeping diabetes management stable.
Diabetes raises the number of obstacles for women today, especially when it comes to reproductive health. However, with careful diabetes management and constant communication with a healthcare professional, women and mothers can live a healthy lifestyle.