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Birla Fertility & IVF
Birla Fertility & IVF

Fertility and Diabetes

  • Published on September 12, 2022
Fertility and Diabetes

Diabetes refers to a condition in which there are high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It is a chronic disease that increases the risk of many other serious health problems, including heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, and infertility.

In India, nearly 77 million people live with diabetes. It is mainly due to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity, both of which are increasingly becoming prevalent in the country. This article thus explains how diabetes affects fertility in men and women.

How does diabetes affect male fertility?

Research has shown that diabetes has adverse effects on male reproductive function.

Some of those effects include:

Impaired spermatogenesis

One of the major complications of diabetes is that it can affect spermatogenesis. This is the process by which the sperm is created in men. When a man’s sperm count is low, it can be difficult to conceive. 

Reduced serum testosterone level

Serum testosterone level is the amount of testosterone that is in your blood. In patients with diabetes, their insulin-resistant cells weaken the body’s ability to produce testosterone. 

Reduced semen volume

Semen volume is a measure of the amount of semen ejaculated by a man during a single orgasm. It is usually measured in millilitres.

An average semen volume is around 3.7 millilitres but ranges from 1 millilitre to 10 millilitres. Unfortunately, men with diabetes may have reduced semen volume. 

Low libido

The term libido, which comes from the Latin word for desire, is often used to describe a person’s sex drive. Some people with diabetes have a reduced libido.

This is because the pancreas, in this case, is producing less insulin, and the body’s cells are not able to use the insulin to get the glucose they need to function. This lack of glucose leads to a lack of energy and desire for sex.

Erectile dysfunction

It is a condition where a man is unable to achieve or maintain an erection. Diabetes can cause erectile dysfunction for a few reasons.

First, it can cause nerve damage that interferes with arousal and orgasm. Second, diabetes can cause a man to have a lower testosterone level. Finally, diabetes increases the risk of getting a penile infection. 

All these factors can lead to infertility in men. Now that you’ve understood how diabetes affects fertility in men, let’s talk about women!

How does diabetes affect female infertility?

Women with diabetes are likelier to have problems with fertility. This is because type 2 diabetes is closely associated with:

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a leading cause of infertility in women. In this condition, a woman’s ovaries produce too many male hormones, leading to symptoms like acne, excess hair, weight gain, and the formation of cysts in the ovaries.

Women with type 2 diabetes are highly likely to develop PCOS. 

Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)

 It is a condition in which a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs before the age of 40. This is often due to genetics, autoimmune disorders, or cancer treatments.

Studies have found that type 2 diabetes can elevate the risk of POI. 

Thyroid disease

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck that produces hormones that regulate your body’s metabolism. Thyroid disease refers to a condition where the thyroid gland produces too much or too little thyroid hormone.

Research suggests that the disease is linked with thyroid dysfunction.

Irregular periods

It’s natural for periods to sometimes be irregular. It’s not always a cause for concern. But in other cases, Irregular periods can also be a symptom of other health issues.

For instance, PCOS can lead to irregular periods. And research confirms that women with type 2 diabetes may experience unpredictable menstrual cycles. 

That’s how type 2 diabetes and pregnancy are interconnected!

Can a diabetic woman get pregnant?

It’s not uncommon for women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes to have a safe pregnancy. Managing your blood sugars throughout the pregnancy is your best chance of having a healthy baby.

However, doctors will treat your pregnancy as high risk and will be monitored frequently.

Listed below are the diabetic pregnancy risks you should know about:

  • preterm birth
  • stillbirth
  • congenital disabilities, such as nervous system and heart abnormalities  
  • overweight baby, which increases the probability of caesarean section
  • miscarriage 

How to prevent diabetes pregnancy risks

The key to a successful, full-term pregnancy with diabetes is to have your blood sugar control – both during pregnancy and before conception. 

Talk to your doctors at least six months before you plan to get pregnant. They will guide you on how to control and monitor your blood sugar tightly.

Not every pregnancy can be planned. So, if you are already pregnant, it’s best to consult your doctor as soon as possible. 

Has diabetes caused infertility?

If yes, consider other options for becoming a parent:

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF): IVF involves fertilizing an egg in the laboratory and then implanting the fertilized egg in the woman’s uterus. However, you may still have diabetes pregnancy risks, as mentioned earlier.
  • IVF and surrogacy: Your egg fertilized via IVF can be implanted in a surrogate to prevent complications later in the pregnancy. 
  • IVF using donor egg: If diabetes has caused you to stop ovulating, this is another option. In this method, a donor egg is fertilized in the laboratory using the IVF technique. You may still need a surrogate to carry the pregnancy full-term. 

Conclusion

Diabetes is a chronic disease that can lead to a number of health problems, including infertility in women and men, if left untreated.

In males, diabetes can lead to impaired spermatogenesis, reduced serum testosterone level, reduced semen volume, low libido, and erectile dysfunction. On the other hand, diabetes is a risk factor for PCOS, POI, thyroid disease, and irregular periods in females.

If you are pregnant and have diabetes, keep a close watch on your blood glucose to prevent complications such as preterm birth, miscarriage, and stillbirth. However, if you are unable to get pregnant, consider other options like IVF, surrogacy, donor eggs, or a combination of those treatments based on your condition. 

To get the best diagnosis and treatment for infertility, visit Birla Fertility & IVF or book an appointment with Dr. Deepika Mishra. 

FAQs 

1. Does diabetes affect your eggs?

Diabetes can significantly impact fertility and eggs. Women diagnosed with diabetes are likelier to have ovulation problems.

If you have diabetes and want to get pregnant, you may want to consult your doctor about managing your blood sugar levels.

2. Can diabetes stop ovulation?

Type 2 diabetes can elevate the risk of anovulation (no ovulation) due to the imbalance of progesterone and estrogen levels. 

Other causes of anovulation are hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone) and PCOS, both of which have a correlation with increased blood sugar. 

3. Can I conceive if I have diabetes?

It’s possible to conceive with diabetes, but there are risks like preterm birth, stillbirth, and congenital disabilities in the offspring. If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar levels in check and eating a healthy diet is important.

However, to navigate these risks, you can consider other options like IVF, donor egg, or surrogacy. 

4. Is diabetes pregnancy high risk?

The effect of sugar in pregnancy can lead to complications such as miscarriage, a large baby, or congenital disabilities. It can also increase the probability of caesarean delivery. Hence, your pregnancy will be considered a high risk by doctors. 

Written by:
Dr Puja Singh

Dr Puja Singh

Dr. Puja Singh has been a senior resident at the Hindu Rao Hospital and NDMC Medical College, New Delhi and has been previously attached with Nova IVF Clinic, Ahmedabad in fertility services. She completed her post-graduation in Obs & Gynae from Hindu Rao Hospital & NDMC Medical College, New Delhi. She completed her FNB training in reproductive medicine.She has done fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery from AMASI. Her main area of interest is reproductive medicine. She has done her MBBS & Internship at Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar Hospital, Raipur. She is dexterous and precise in surgical treatment procedures. 

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