Between work, home and family, women tend to juggle a lot of responsibilities to keep things running smoothly. But who’s looking out for mom amidst all the carpooling and errand-running, the business meetings and the lunch-packing?
Mother’s Day also kicked off National Women’s Health Week, an effort to empower women to make their health a priority and encourage them to take steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases, including diabetes. After all, we want them to stay healthy!
Diabetes can be especially tough on women. For starters, it affects both pregnant women and their unborn babies. Studies also show women with diabetes are at higher risk for developing depression and some other complications than men—despite the fact that women typically have longer life expectancies. Let’s take a quick look at what makes women so special when it comes to diabetes.
Gestational diabetes: Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood glucose levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes. It affects up to 18 percent of all pregnancies and puts both mothers and their babies at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
There is something you can do to help these moms and their babies have a chance at a healthier life. Join the American Diabetes Association in urging Congress to support the Gestational Diabetes Act, a bill that provides funding to expand public health research to help reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes. Click here to make your voice heard!
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS consists of some or all of the following: cysts on the ovaries, irregular periods, infertility and abnormal face or body hair growth. Because many women with PCOS also have diabetes, studies are examining the relationship between PCOS and insulin resistance. There is no cure for PCOS, so it needs to be managed through weight loss to prevent further problems.
Menopause: Menopause and the years leading up to it, when your body gradually produces less estrogen and progesterone (perimenopause), may present unique challenges if you have diabetes. How these hormonal changes affect blood glucose may vary depending on the individual. Many women, however, notice that their blood glucose levels are more variable and less predictable than before.
Mental health: The rate of depression in people with diabetes is much higher than in the general population. Women experience depression about twice as often as men, and the risk of depression increases in women with diabetes. Many hormonal factors may contribute to this—such as as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, the postpartum period and menopause. Many women also face additional stresses, such as responsibilities both at work and home, single parenthood and caring for children and for aging parents.
Eating disorders: Research suggests that eating disorders are more common among women with diabetes than women who do not have diabetes. Bulimia is the most common eating disorder in women with type 1 diabetes. Among women with type 2 diabetes, binge eating is more common. While eating disorders are serious, potentially life threatening illnesses, there is help available and recovery is possible.
So what’s a girl with diabetes to do? Women with diabetes need to watch out for themselves, and their families (and health care team!) need to watch out for them. A good place to start is our Coping with Diabetes handbook, a colorful, 11-page booklet for women with diabetes and their families that focuses on five steps to emotional well-being. Call 1-800-342-2383 today for your free copy!