Living with and managing diabetes is a challenging journey for both men and women. But for women, the weight of diabetes management can feel like a heavier lift than for men with diabetes.
You may face additional challenges, such as managing your diabetes during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Compared to women without diabetes, women with diabetes have greater risk of experiencing health complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, and depression.
Learning about the interaction between diabetes and women’s health can help you better understand your diabetes and learn how to best manage it throughout all the unique times and stages of your life.
|How Diabetes Affects Women’s Health|
|Menstruation||Menstruation → hormone fluctuations → blood glucose fluctuations → challenges staying within your target blood glucose range|
|Pregnancy||High blood glucose levels during pregnancy → increased risk of preeclampsia, miscarriage, delivery by C-section, birth defects, macrosomia, early birth, stillbirth, etc.|
|Menopause||Hormone changes → decreased response to insulin → challenges staying within your target blood glucose range|
Diabetes and Women’s Health: An Overview
As a woman living with diabetes, it can sometimes feel like you have more to manage than men living with diabetes. Fluctuating hormones during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can all make it more difficult to control your blood glucose levels—but maintaining good glycemic control is essential for protecting your long-term health and reducing your risk of experiencing complications.
Diabetes and Menstruation
During menstruation, as well as during the days leading up to your cycle, your hormones can fluctuate. As you might know, hormones are a factor that can affect blood glucose levels. As your hormones fluctuate throughout your cycle, your blood glucose may behave in ways you aren’t used to, making it difficult to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range.
This is not to say that if you have diabetes, your diabetes will be out of control anytime your cycle comes around. Some women find it easier to control their diabetes during their period, some find it harder, and some don’t notice a difference. Regularly monitoring and tracking your blood glucose levels can help you better understand how menstruation affects your blood glucose.
Diabetes and Pregnancy
If you are living with diabetes and are thinking about becoming pregnant, it’s normal and understandable to worry about how diabetes will affect you and your baby. High blood glucose levels during pregnancy can also increase your risk of preeclampsia, miscarriage, and delivery by C-section and your baby’s risk of:
- Birth defects (e.g. of the spine, brain, kidneys, digestive system, heart, and blood vessels)
- Macrosomia (being much larger than normal, 9+ lbs)
- Being born early
- Experiencing low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) shortly after birth
- Experiencing breathing problems
- Obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life
Although diabetes can affect pregnancy, it’s important to understand that these risks are specifically associated with poor blood glucose control. If you have diabetes and become pregnant, you’ll likely go on to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby—especially if your diabetes is well-managed. According to the American Diabetes Association, if your A1C is 6.5% or less, you’re no more likely to have a baby with a birth defect than a woman without diabetes.
Because of the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, you may find it more difficult to achieve your blood glucose targets than before. Work closely with your healthcare team to make any necessary adjustments to your diabetes management plan.
Diabetes and Menopause
Menopause is another important consideration when it comes to diabetes and women’s health. During perimenopause and menopause, you may notice that strategies that were previously effective for blood glucose control no longer produce the same results.
This is because hormonal changes can affect how your body responds to insulin, making it more difficult to keep your blood glucose levels in your target range. Symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats and hot flashes, can impact your sleep quality and duration, making blood glucose control even more challenging.
Although menopause can complicate diabetes management for some women, it’s an opportunity to create new healthy habits that support you during the menopause transition and beyond.
The Importance of Blood Glucose Monitoring for Diabetes and Women’s Health
As a woman, there are times when your body needs extra attention and care—and if you’re living with diabetes, you’ll also need to pay close attention to your blood glucose levels. During times such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, your blood glucose levels may change more rapidly and/or more often than you’re used to.
During these times, it’s essential to monitor your blood glucose levels frequently—but making blood glucose monitoring a priority is often easier said than done. If barriers, such as difficulty handling test strips, time constraints, and testing complexity, interfere with your ability to test as frequently as you should, you may consider using an automatic blood glucose monitor (ABGM). An ABGM, like the POGO Automatic® Monitor, allows for automatic lancing and blood collection with the press of a button, making testing simpler than ever before.
POGO Automatic also comes with the free Patterns® for POGO Automatic app, which allows you to identify trends and better understand the relationships between your blood glucose and a range of health and lifestyle variables, such as fluctuating hormones.
Diabetes management will likely look different throughout different stages of your life. Learning about diabetes and women’s health can help you better understand—and better manage—your diabetes.
Robert Miller is a customer experience specialist committed to helping people navigate the world of diabetes. He focuses on finding innovative tools and strategies that make diabetes management easier to support long-term wellness.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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