Type 2 Diabetes and Women
Special concerns if you’re a woman with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy. Most women are usually screened for it at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy, and 3% to 8% of women develop it.
“Although gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy, it’s a wake-up call for future risks,” Henderson says.
About 5% to 10% of women who have gestational diabetes are found to have type 2 diabetes after pregnancy. Women who have had gestational diabetes also have up to a 50% chance of getting type 2 diabetes within the next five to 10 years.
So Henderson advises women with gestational diabetes to heed the warning and start upgrading their diet and exercise habits now.
Diabetes and Breastfeeding
Unless a doctor advises against it, breastfeeding is recommended for all new moms -- with or without diabetes.
Once she has a baby, a woman's blood sugar control can change. If she has type 2 diabetes, she may need less insulin or a change in her diabetes drugs or doses.
“That’s why you need to have a plan in place ahead of time for your target goals,” Henderson says. It’s important to discuss this plan with both your ob-gyn, as well as your primary doctor for diabetes.
Nursing your baby increases chances of getting back to a healthy weight, and can help get blood sugar and insulin levels under control. And it can cut stress levels and encourage mother-baby bonding.
Breastfeeding might also help delay or prevent type 2 diabetes from developing. A 2005 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed every year a woman breastfeeds may translate into a 15% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. A 2010 study showed that breastfeeding for at least a month after giving birth has an effect on a woman’s risks for future type 2 diabetes.
If you’re pregnant with type 2 diabetes, take a breastfeeding class. And ask for a lactation consultant to visit you at the hospital after you deliver.
Breastfeeding is not always easy or convenient, and many women can't breastfeed exclusively. But the perks for mother and child can make it worth trying.
Diabetes and Menopause
As women enter menopause, problems stemming from type 2 diabetes can grow.
During these years, lower estrogen levels and changes in sleep can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate and become less predictable and harder to control, says internist Melanie Jay, MD, MS of New York University’s Langone Medical Center.
Blood sugar levels become even harder to control if you've also gained weight, developed insulin resistance, or aren't physically active.
Blood sugar fluctuations can cause symptoms similar to those common in menopause, such as mood changes, fatigue, and hot flashes. So it’s not uncommon to mistake them for signs of low blood sugar and try to correct the problem by eating more calories, thus raising blood sugar risks.
Type 2 diabetes might also worsen sexual function problems that often arise during menopause, Henderson tells WebMD. Symptoms include vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. Poorly controlled diabetes can interfere with neurological function, causing lower sexual desire and decreased sensation around the genital area, Henderson says. If that happens to you, talk to your doctor about it.