Diabetes and the menstrual cycle can have a tricky relationship with each other. Hormones associated with the menstrual cycle can affect blood sugar levels and vice versa. Many women choose to monitor their cycle to some degree. This process can help you detect if there are patterns in your menstrual cycle and your blood sugar numbers. Perhaps, you run higher right before or during your cycle. This can last 3-5 days before, during, or after menstruation. Hormone changes can also influence you food desires and make it more difficult to resist high carbohydrate/high fat foods. The extra data can help you fine tune diabetes management even further. If you take insulin via a pump, you may need to set a temporary basal rate to get your numbers in your target range or you may need to cut back on your carbohydrate intake if you are not taking insulin. If you are able to find a pattern in blood sugar levels based on your menstrual cycle as a young adult, it will be important to confirm your pattern as you move through the aging process. For some these changes can occur in their 30’s or abruptly after a hysterectomy. For most women, peri-menopause starts in the 40’s and can last a few years. During this time, the drop in estrogen is more drastic and cycles become more irregular.
Besides additional challenges that are prevalent for women, pregnancy and diabetes can have extra challenges. There may be a challenge in conceiving, insulin may need to be started or increased substantially during pregnancy, food intake may change, and the health of the fetus will be closely monitored. Going to scheduled OB visits, meeting with your diabetes doctor and your diabetes educator, and possible meeting with a perninatologist will all be very important to having a healthy pregnancy. Ideally, women who have diabetes should engage in pre-conception counseling with their healthcare providers.
Regardless of where you are in your menstrual cycle, women should be aware that there can be extra challenges in diabetes self-management. Monitoring your blood sugars and speaking with your healthcare providers are keys to successfully managing your diabetes.