Diabetes can affect a woman's reproductive health because the hormones that control menstruation can cause changes in blood glucose levels. Learn to monitor patterns in your blood glucose changes that correlate to your menstrual cycles.

Hormones and blood glucose levels

The hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle, estrogen and progesterone, interact with the insulin hormone and may make your body more resistant to its own insulin or injected insulin.

Because of this, either before, after, or during menstruation you may experience a rise in blood glucose levels for three to five days. These effects might be consistent from month to month, or they might vary, making them more difficult to monitor. An increase in your levels of progesterone can also trigger food cravings that can make diabetes management more difficult.

Diabetes and your menstrual cycle

Just as your menstrual cycle affects your diabetes, your diabetes, in turn, affects your menstrual cycle.

Women with type 1 diabetes, on average, start menstruation a year later than women without diabetes, and they are more likely to have menstrual problems before age 30. Diabetes also increases a woman's chances of having longer menstrual cycles and periods, heavier periods, and earlier onset of menopause.

Managing diabetes and your cycle

The key to knowing how your menstrual cycle affects your diabetes and vice versa is careful monitoring. Track menstrual cycle changes that relate to your diabetes as closely as you would your blood sugar levels.

Using a period tracker app can help you keep track of your cycle and clue you into when you might start experiencing high blood sugars. Compare your cycle with your blood glucose levels and note any trends that you see so you can be prepared for diabetes management changes in future months.

Poor blood sugar control brought on by your hormones can also lead to increased symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. In addition to tracking blood sugar and your cycle, monitor if you feel especially tender, bloated, or grouchy during the week before, during, or after your period.

After you have established some patterns, you can discuss with your doctor recommendations for adjusting your insulin at different points in your menstrual cycle to keep blood glucose levels stable.

Women with type 2 diabetes should also add in regular exercise during episodes of insulin resistance in order to lower blood glucose, particularly if they are not taking insulin as part of diabetes management. Exercise can also help with premenstrual symptoms, such as bloating, water retention, and food cravings.