Diabetes is a growing concern in India, with significant implications for female fertility and pregnancy. Managing and controlling diabetes becomes crucial to safeguard reproductive health and increase the chances of successful conception and healthy pregnancy outcomes.
According to a recent study published in The Lancet, India is facing alarming rates of diabetes, with 101 million individuals diagnosed and an additional 136 million people dealing with prediabetes. This means that approximately 11.4 percent of the country’s population is grappling with this metabolic disorder. Diabetes, characterized by the body’s inability to convert sugars and starches into energy due to insufficient insulin production, leads to elevated blood sugar levels. This condition can have profound effects on female fertility and subsequently impact pregnancy.
In this article, Dr. Kshitiz Murdia, CEO & Co-founder of Indira IVF, sheds light on the different types of diabetes and their impact on female fertility and pregnancy.
Types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes: This form of diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little to no insulin, impeding the body’s ability to utilize blood sugar for energy. Individuals with type 1 diabetes need to manage their condition by administering regular insulin injections.
- Gestational Diabetes: Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy in women who did not have diabetes prior to conception. It can usually be controlled through a balanced diet and regular exercise. In some cases, insulin may be necessary. If gestational diabetes persists after childbirth, it is classified as type 2 diabetes.
Impact of type 1 diabetes on female fertility:
Women with type 1 diabetes experience distinct reproductive patterns compared to those without the condition. Type 1 diabetes can delay the onset of puberty (menarche) and lead to early natural menopause, reducing the woman’s reproductive window by 17 percent. Increased blood sugar levels associated with type 1 diabetes accelerate ovarian aging, leading to these effects. Additionally, women with type 1 diabetes may experience delayed ovulation, irregular menstruation, reduced chances of natural conception, and an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth compared to non-diabetic women.
Impact of type 2 diabetes on female fertility:
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance, which results in excess insulin and elevated blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance is linked to higher levels of male hormones (androgens) in women, such as testosterone. Elevated testosterone levels disrupt the hormonal balance necessary for healthy reproductive function. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which affects 5-13 percent of women of reproductive age, is associated with insulin resistance and higher-than-normal testosterone levels. PCOS leads to irregular ovulation, reducing the chances of natural pregnancy.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause irregular periods, infrequent menstruation (oligomenorrhea), and secondary amenorrhea, making it challenging for women to conceive naturally. Diabetes can also contribute to obesity, further complicating the situation.
Diabetes affects various aspects of the reproductive system in both men and women, reducing fertility. While lifestyle changes and medications can address some of these challenges, others may require the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) like in vitro fertilization (IVF) to achieve pregnancy. It is essential to control and manage diabetes not only for overall organ health but also for reproductive health. Couples planning to start a family should undergo proper diagnosis and treatment for any underlying conditions they may have. Ensuring the health of aspiring parents is crucial for securing a healthy future for their children.