Hundreds of millions of people who menstruate also have diabetes. Everyone’s body is unique, and no two menstrual cycles are the same. The average menstrual cycle is between 21 and 35 days long. It’s important to know your own cycle so that you can track differences. People with diabetes are at a higher risk for abnormal periods. Let’s explore the role diabetes can play in menstruation.
How are diabetes and menstruation connected?
Hormonal changes in your body can influence your blood sugar. The luteal phase of your cycle occurs after your ovaries release an egg. Once this happens, progesterone floods your bloodstream. Progesterone is a hormone that prepares your body for pregnancy during your cycle. Higher progesterone has been linked with higher insulin resistance. This is called luteal phase insulin resistance. This may make it harder to control your blood sugar. Doctors are still researching ways that diabetes and certain hormones interact. Here are common ways diabetes and your period influence each other.
Ovulation occurs when one of your ovaries releases an egg. Anovulation is when you don’t ovulate. When you don’t ovulate regularly, it may be harder to get pregnant. Anovulation can also make it harder to track your cycle. This could increase the risk of unwanted pregnancy. If you experience anovulation, you may skip a period. For others, anovulation may lead to more than one period in a single month. Occasional changes are normal. Speak to your doctor if you notice something odd for more than 2 or 3 months. Try tracking your period using a calendar or a period-tracking app. This will make it easier to notice abnormal periods as they happen.
High or low blood sugar
Your cycle can affect your blood sugar. It’s important to monitor your glucose levels regularly. Many people with type 1 diabetes have lower blood sugar a few days before their period. Others have higher blood sugar on the days leading up to their period. Everyone experiences diabetes and menstruation differently. Try to get a clear picture of what your unique normal is. Keep track of your blood sugar. You may notice changes. If you do, talk to your doctor before adjusting your insulin.
People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Read more about PCOS and diabetes here.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Another side effect of higher progesterone levels is increased appetite and cravings. You may crave sweet and fatty foods one or two weeks before your period begins. It’s important to maintain healthy snacking habits during this time. Avoid sweet foods that could cause your blood sugar to spike. Consider logging your food in a diary or keep low-sugar snacks nearby. Continue to monitor your blood sugar and keep track of your glucose levels and diet. See if you notice any trends. If you do, try adjusting your snacks.
Hormonal birth control
Hormonal birth control can affect hormone levels, which may impact your ability to manage your blood sugar. Some find that birth control helps them manage their glucose levels. Others find that birth control makes it more difficult. If you’re thinking about stopping or starting birth control, consult a doctor for advice.
There is no one-size-fits-all way to manage diabetes and menstruation. Knowing your personal normal is the key to finding the balance you deserve.