The link between diabetes and the menstrual cycle: here’s what you need to know

lifestyle disorder, Diabetes is a global epidemic. According to Dr Geeth Monnappa, Senior Consultant (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) at Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore, it is important to understand the range of abnormalities faced by women with diabetes. “We have known for a long time that systemic disorders like anemia, hypertension and Diabetes have an effect on the menstrual cycle,” she said.

Menstrual abnormalities with diabetes

Type 2 diabetes

Dr. Monnappa explained that women with longer intervals between periods, or those who have delayed periods, are at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

“In addition to delayed periods, these women tend to be obese and lead sedentary lives, which increases their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome tend to have delayed periods and increased facial and body hair. Insulin resistance – the main problem of polycystic ovary syndrome – leads to increased production of male hormones from the cells of the ovarian theca, leading to increased facial/body hair,” she said.

The doctor added that insulin resistance puts them at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

“Several studies have shown irregular periodsphysical inactivity and obesity have an additive effect, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“This emphasizes the need to eliminate the risk by regulating the menstrual cycle through a combination of lifestyle modification – such as a healthy diet and regular exercise – and medication,” the expert said.

Studies have shown that women with type 1 diabetes tend to have delayed puberty/first periods, heavy menstrual flow and delayed cycles. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Type 1 diabetes

According to Dr. Monnappa, studies have shown that women with type 1 diabetes – a condition often diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 15 – tend to delay puberty/first menstruation, heavy menstrual flow and delayed cycles. “These women may have difficulty getting pregnant, have multiple abortions and stillbirths, and reach menopause earlier than usual.

How to reduce the risk?

1. Make your menstrual cycles regular: Women with menstruation delays of 3 months or more should consult a gynecologist to regularize their periods.

2. Healthy food: A diet high in fibre, healthy carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and some fruits), fish and good fats (avocados and nuts) in consultation with a dietitian will help reduce the risk of developing diabetes type 2 in women with PCOS.

3. Exercise: Aerobic exercises such as walking, cycling, jogging, dancing and swimming significantly improve insulin resistance and help regularize periods in women with PCOS, improve their chances of natural pregnancy and reduce their risk of develop diabetes in the future. One hundred and fifty hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week are recommended to reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.

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