You already know that your cycle affects your cravings, moods, and how you feel. But the hormonal changes that occur during your monthly cycle can affect your diabetes, too. Having diabetes may even result in some changes to your menstrual cycle.
To refresh your memory, menstruation (often just called your period) is the time when the lining of the uterus is shed by your body. This results in bleeding that comes through the vagina. This happens when estrogen and progesterone levels drop in your body. For most women, a typical menstrual period lasts between 3 to 7 days.[i]
Your menstrual cycle refers to the time between the first day of your period and the first day of your next period. Cycles vary from woman to woman. However, the average menstrual cycle length is 28 days, although cycles can range between 24-38 days.[ii]
Diabetes and the Menstrual Cycle
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it can contribute to a risk of unpredictable or irregular cycles.
Type 1 Diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes has been linked with menstrual problems like heavy menstruation, long menstruation, and longer cycles.[iii] It can also affect your reproductive years — the years between your first period and when you go into menopause.
Researchers aren’t really sure why this happens. But studies show that some women with type 1 diabetes don’t get their first period until later in life.[iv] It seems especially true for girls who are diagnosed with diabetes when they are very young.
Type 2 Diabetes:
Women with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of anovulation.[v] Anovulation occurs if your ovary doesn’t release an egg. If this happens, you likely won’t have a period that month. Just remember, while the risk of anovulation is higher in women with type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t mean every woman will experience it.
The Menstrual Cycle and Blood Sugar Levels
Throughout the menstrual cycle, changing hormone levels can affect both blood sugar and insulin levels. After you ovulate, there’s usually an increase in a hormone called progesterone. Higher levels of progesterone may cause increased insulin resistance. [vi]
Because of this temporary insulin resistance, studies show that women often have higher blood glucose levels during the days after ovulation.[vii]
Some women with diabetes experience low blood sugar levels when they start their period, while others report high blood sugar levels during this time.[viii] Blood sugar levels usually go back to normal after their period. However, insulin doses may need to be adjusted.
Developing Diabetes – The Menstrual Cycle Link
Your menstrual cycle can affect your diabetes, and irregularities in your cycle may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, too. Studies show a potential link between having irregular or long menstrual cycles and the development of type 2 diabetes.[ix]
Researchers think that hormonal imbalances may play a role in this link. Irregular periods are often a sign of higher insulin levels. This can result in events that eventually cause insulin resistance.
Coping With Your Menstrual Cycle and Diabetes
Many women find that how their monthly cycle affects their diabetes can vary from month to month. It’s a good idea to keep a diary of blood sugar levels. This can help you find any patterns. If you find that your blood sugar goes high during or before your period, talk to your care team about increasing insulin doses or lowering your carb intake.
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Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.