Because Men and Women are Not Created Equal . . . When it Comes to Diabetes

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, quickly followed by National Women’s Health Week, May 13 to 19. That makes May a great month to talk about women’s health.

We can always count on moms, sisters, wives, girlfriends and other women in our lives to be there for us, and we want them to stay healthy. (Men too, of course, but we’ll get to that next month!)

But diabetes can be especially tough on women. For starters, it affects both mothers and their unborn babies. Studies also show women with diabetes are at higher risk for developing heart disease, kidney disease and depression than men—despite the fact that women typically have longer life expectancies.

This information may be concerning, but we also know a lot about how to stave off many of these complications. Let’s address some popular questions about how diabetes affects women.

1.   Are there any diabetes medications that have side effects unique to women?
Yes, the oral medications classified as thiazolidinediones (TZDs) may cause women who are not ovulating and haven’t gone through menopause to begin ovulating again, enabling them to conceive. Also, oral contraceptives may be less effective when taking this medication.

2.   Is there a special time table that women with diabetes should follow for medical check-ups such as gynecological exams?
Check-ups should be performed on a regular, consistent basis to ensure that your diabetes is not negatively affecting your reproductive organs. Your health care provider will determine how often you should schedule your visits, depending on your overall health.

3.   Can women with diabetes breastfeed their babies?
Unless your health care team advises you otherwise, yes! Breast milk provides the best nutrition for babies and breastfeeding is recommended for all mothers, whether you have preexisting diabetes or gestational diabetes.

4.   I had gestational diabetes. How soon after having my baby should I get my blood glucose rechecked?
Gestational diabetes is estimated to develop in 18 percent of all pregnancies. Get your blood glucose checked about six to eight weeks after delivery. Like 90 percent of the women with gestational diabetes, your levels will probably return to normal right after your baby is born. However, you still run the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on. In fact, studies have shown women who have had gestational diabetes are at risk (of up to 60 percent) for developing diabetes in the next 10 to 20 years.

5.   What are the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?
The benefits of HRT are decreased risk of osteoporosis, hot flashes and vaginitis (infections). The risks while using estrogen are increased incidence of breast cancer and uterine cancer. However, when estrogen and progesterone are administered together and in the correct doses, the risk of uterine or endometrial cancer is actually reduced.

6.   Will menopause affect my diabetes?
Yes. The changes in the levels and balance of your hormones may lead to out-of-control blood glucose levels. Women with diabetes are also at risk of developing premature menopause and, consequently, increased risks of cardiovascular disease.

Have more on your mind? See if any of your questions are answered in our full FAQ about women and diabetes. Coming up next week, we’ll be sharing information about the Gestational Diabetes Act, an important piece of legislation that affects mothers and babies.

So if you’re a woman with diabetes, be sure to take care of yourself by making healthy lifestyle choices and getting proper medical care. If you know someone who has diabetes or is known to be at risk, be sure they do the same. Your support and understanding can make all the difference.

This Mother’s Day, show Mom that you care! Send her flowers and $18 will be donated to the American Diabetes Association. She will be so proud of you! Order your flowers by Saturday, May 12, 9:00 p.m. ET, to ensure delivery by Mother’s Day. Learn more.

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