Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh looked at a group of 80 women with type 1 diabetes, all of whom were diagnosed as children between 1950 and 1980. Each had reached menopause by the time of the study, and none had received hormone replacement therapy during their menopausal transition. The researchers compared these women with another group of 178 women without diabetes who otherwise fit the same study criteria.
Women with diabetes in the study were younger overall and more likely to be white, to have never smoked, and to have a lower body-mass index (BMI, a measure of weight that takes height into account) than women without diabetes in the study. The researchers adjusted for these factors when determining the effect of having type 1 diabetes on the length of women’s reproductive years. Each woman’s span of reproductive years was determined based on self-reporting of when they had their first menstrual period, and when they reached menopause.
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Shorter reproductive span in type 1
The researchers found that on average, the span of reproductive years was 2.5 years shorter for women with type 1 diabetes. Women with diabetes had their first menstrual period an average of 0.5 years later than women without diabetes, and reached menopause an average of 2.0 years earlier.
While their findings clearly demonstrated a shorter span of reproductive years in women with type 1 diabetes who were diagnosed before beginning menstruation, the researchers noted that their study didn’t offer many clues as to why this took place. “Given the high likelihood of experiencing early menopause in type 1 diabetes, and the enormous impact on health associated with early menopause, further studies are needed to determine modifiable factors that contribute to early menopause to improve reproductive health in women with type 1 diabetes,” they wrote.
Past research has suggested that a lack of insulin and high blood glucose may contribute to disruption in the normal function of the female reproductive system, potentially resulting in a delayed first menstrual period and faster aging of the ovaries during a woman’s reproductive years. There hasn’t been much research looking at whether blood glucose control or other factors might have an impact on when women with type 1 diabetes begin menopause.
If you are a woman with type 1 diabetes and are considering becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to ensure a healthy pregnancy with as few health risks and complications as possible.
Want to learn more about pregnancy in type 1 diabetes? Read “Pregnancy and Type 1 Diabetes.”