Can Diabetes Affect Fertility?
Diabetes Mellitus Type 1 and Type 2 is a disease that affects millions of individuals. The American Diabetes Association reports that in 2015, approximately 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes. The long term complications of diabetes, including nerve and eye damage and cardiovascular disease, develop gradually and can have lasting effects on quality of life, including reproductive health.
Young women with diabetes tend to start their menstrual flow later in life than women without diabetes. Additionally, women with diabetes may start menopause earlier, thus, shortening the fertility window to become pregnant and start a family. The reason for this shortened time frame could be due to the association between diabetes and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a condition marked by irregular or absent ovulation that presents as irregular menstrual cycles. Insulin resistance, obesity, and diabetes strongly correlate with PCOS, all of which may contribute to fertility complications. Weight, in particular, may play a role in in how diabetes can impact female fertility. Obesity is common in Type 2 diabetic women and increased weight has been linked to longer times to conception.
Diabetes can also impact male fertility. The accumulation of excess sugar in the vessels that nourish nerves can cause tingling, numbness, and, eventually, nerve damage. As a result, there is reduced blood circulation which can cause difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. A majority of men with diabetes will experience some degree of erectile dysfunction during their lifetime. In fact, difficulty maintaining an erection might even precede a diabetes diagnosis for some men.
Fortunately, if you have diabetes or are pre-diabetic and trying to conceive, there are proactive steps you can take in your lifestyle choices to prevent long term complications. By eating foods low in fat and calories, aiming for 30 minutes of physical activity a day, and losing excess pounds you will keep your weight within a healthy range and offset any long term damage that may impact fertility. Moreover, you should understand how to manage your blood sugar levels and determine the target range that is right for you. Work with your physician to learn how to measure your blood sugar levels and maintain them. Taking these steps early on will help ensure that you are protecting your reproductive health as well as your general health.