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We know that various things can impact your fertility as well as reproductive and sexual health. One of the things that affects the fertility of a person is diabetes. In fact, diabetes can lead to hormonal imbalance, which then has an effect on your conception and causes failed implantation. Diabetes can impact both male and female fertility equally, and it is quite often associated with low quality of sperm, embryo and damage to the DNA. Diabetes can impact the nerves and blood vessels of female reproductive organs, and can cause sexual dysfunction.
First and foremost, one must know what exactly diabetes is. Our body is made of trillions of cells and they need energy to function. The food that you consume is turned into sugar, which is also known as glucose. The glucose travels to all your cells through your bloodstream. The pancreas makes something called insulin. Insulin helps all the cells in your body use the glucose. Your cells require the glucose to meet the nourishment they need. When a person has diabetes, the level of glucose in the body is not appropriate. Either your pancreas is not making enough insulin or your cells are not reacting to the insulin the way that they should. That’s why there is too much glucose running through your blood. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not create insulin. With type 2 diabetes, which is the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin in the body, the glucose remains in your blood.
Having too much or too little glucose in your blood can damage your heart, cause a stroke, blood vessels, kidneys, brain, nerves, might even come to the point where one needs to get a limb removed and causes eyesight to get worse over the years.
Both type 1 and 2 diabetes can impact fertility but in slightly different ways.
If a woman has had type 1 diabetes most of her life, it can interact with the hormonal regulation that stimulates a regular menstrual cycle. With type 2 diabetes, it is different. It is led by something called ‘insulin resistance’. Common risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity and PCOS. Diabetes can cause female infertility by delaying menarche (onset of menses for the first time) and this is intensified by the fact that high sugar causes rapid and premature ovarian aging, as evidenced by an early menopause. Thus, diabetes leads to shortening of a woman’s reproductive lifespan.
Diabetes can have an impact on male fertility. Elevated blood sugar levels and elevated cholesterol levels can cause difficulty in erection. This condition is known as erectile dysfunction. The elevated blood sugar levels in diabetes mellitus can also result in increased levels of DNA fragmentation in the sperm. Increased DNA fragmentation is very serious, as it can reduce the chances of getting pregnant and in some cases might increase the risk of miscarriage. An egg which is fertilised by a fragmented sperm has a very high possibility of becoming an unhealthy embryo.
Elevated blood sugar levels can also reduce sperm motility and reduced sperm volume. There are also chances of sperm shape altering due to diabetes.
It is extremely necessary for one to engage with your diabetes team. If you have diabetes (type 1 or 2), it is important to improve your glycaemic control before conception. See a dietitian with experience infertility and diabetes to help improve your health. A dietitian can provide individualised tailored plans around how food and what we are eating really impacts our blood sugar levels, and what we can do to improve your chances of conceiving, while having a normal and healthy pregnancy.
Yoga can also prove to be extremely helpful in controlling or keeping your diabetes in check, as there is no cure for diabetes. Your doctor might suggest oral medicines or sometimes ‘insulin therapy’; because the pancreas does not make enough or any insulin, it is injected into the body. The injected insulin will substitute and assist your body. You may need to inject yourself several times each day. A professional health physician can help you teach how to inject it. Exercise, weight control and sticking to a proper diet can help one to keep his or her diabetes in check. One should regularly monitor their glucose levels and can even take regular medication prescribed by their doctors for a long and healthy life.