5 things women need to know about diabetes and their periods

A typical menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days, with a normal range of 21 to 35 days. During this roughly one-month cycle, changes in hormone levels trigger ovulation (the release of a mature egg) and then, if you’re not pregnant, trigger menstruation (your period).

You may not realize that these hormonal changes can also affect other bodily functions. This is especially true for women with diabetes, who face unique challenges and risks in the reproductive cycle.

This article looks at how the reproductive cycle affects a person’s ability to manage diabetes, and conversely, how diabetes affects a person’s reproductive cycle, as well as the risk of certain gynecological problems, including cancer.

Elevated blood sugar during menstruation

If you cannot control your blood sugar the week before your period, it may not be caused by anything you are doing. In fact, this may be due to changes in hormone levels.

Ovulation occurs about halfway through your menstrual cycle. At this point, progesterone levels increase. In turn, an increase in progesterone is associated with an increase in insulin resistance.

This means that during the second half of the cycle (called the luteal phase), when progesterone levels are naturally higher, you may experience some insulin resistance. This response is called luteal phase insulin resistance. People with type 1 diabetes tend to be more sensitive to it.

Luteal phase insulin resistance can lead to high blood sugar Even if you stick to your daily diet and exercise program, your blood sugar will spike.

An increase in progesterone can also trigger food cravings for simple carbohydrates and can cause you to lose motivation to exercise. This can further lead to poor blood sugar (blood sugar) control.

If you have diabetes, be sure to pay attention to your diet and exercise during the luteal phase. If you are taking diabetes medication, it is especially important to check your blood sugar regularly to maintain blood sugar control.

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During the second half of the menstrual cycle, elevated progesterone levels can lead to increased insulin resistance. During this time, if you are taking diabetes medication, you will need to pay extra attention to your diet and monitor your blood sugar regularly.

Hormonal contraception and insulin resistance

Just as natural hormonal fluctuations can affect blood sugar control, the use of hormonal birth control pills—including the pill, the patch, and the ring—may have the same effect.

These hormonal birth control pills contain estrogen, progesterone, or both. Some research suggests that estrogen and progesterone can trigger insulin resistance, making it more difficult to control blood sugar.

In general, if you have diabetes, you’re absolutely fine with these forms of birth control. Still, it’s important to understand their impact on blood sugar control. Whenever you start or change your hormonal birth control method, pay special attention to your blood sugar.


Hormonal contraception, including the pill and the patch and ring, can also lead to insulin resistance. It is especially important to monitor your blood sugar when starting or switching hormonal birth control methods.

late, early menopause

If you have type 1 diabetes, you may go through menopause earlier than people with type 2 diabetes or without diabetes. Studies have shown that this type of diabetes causes premature aging of blood vessels, which in turn leads to premature aging of egg-laying ovaries.

Additionally, people with type 1 diabetes are more likely to experience menarche (the onset of menstruation) at a later age. This further narrows the window in which conception and pregnancy can occur.

People with type 1 diabetes are also more likely to have irregular periods than people without diabetes. A 2011 study Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology showed that more than one-third of adolescents with type 1 diabetes will experience menstrual irregularities. Scientists still don’t fully understand why this is the case.


Type 1 diabetes is not only associated with early menopause, but also with menstrual irregularities and delayed menarche (late menstruation).

Weight and irregular periods

While type 2 diabetes can occur in women who are not overweight, it is more often associated with being overweight or obese.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, where your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, type 2 diabetes is the result of insulin resistance, a condition in which your liver, muscle, and fat don’t respond well to the insulin being produced.

When you’re overweight, more body fat produces more hormones that directly lead to insulin resistance. This, in turn, causes your pancreas to produce more insulin.

For reasons not yet fully understood, high levels of insulin can interact with hormones that regulate menstruation, resulting in irregular or missed periods.In some cases, there may even be Anovulation One of them doesn’t ovulate.

People with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are at particularly high risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.


Being overweight or obese increases the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can lead to irregular or missed periods because the overproduction of insulin indirectly affects the menstrual cycle.

risk of endometrial cancer

Endometrial cancer is the most common gynecological cancer and occurs most often after menopause.

If you have type 2 diabetes, your risk of developing endometrial cancer increases. The increased risk is thought to be related to insulin resistance and chronically high insulin levels. If you have type 2 diabetes, your risk increases regardless of your body mass index (BMI).

That being said, the risk is especially high if you are significantly overweight or obese.Being overweight or obese can trigger an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone, which not only interferes with menstruation, but also causes the lining of the uterus (called endometrial lining) overgrowth, leading to endometriosis.

Endometriosis is associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer. This is common in obese people if you have unusually high estrogen levels and unusually low progesterone levels.


Regardless of your weight, type 2 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer. However, if you are significantly overweight or obese, the risk increases even further.


Diabetes affects normal menstruation, which in turn affects diabetes control. This is the case with Catch-22, which can make life challenging for people with diabetes.

An increase in progesterone can cause temporary insulin resistance and a spike in blood sugar before your period. The same is true if you have diabetes and use hormonal birth control pills that can further increase progesterone levels.

Diabetes, on the other hand, increases the risk of irregular periods and anovulation (anovulation) due to imbalanced levels of estrogen and progesterone. With type 1 diabetes, there is also an increased risk of delayed menarche (late menstruation) and early menopause.

Type 2 diabetes is also associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer, regardless of a person’s weight. The risk increases only when a person is overweight or obese.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are women with PCOS more likely to develop diabetes?

    Yes, PCOS affects insulin function and can lead to diabetes. More than 50% of women with PCOS will develop type 2 diabetes by age 40.

  • What are some risk factors for type 2 diabetes?

    Risk factors for diabetes include family history of the disease, being overweight, age (45 years or older), sedentary lifestyle, previous history of gestational diabetes, and ethnicity, including black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native ancestry .