Diabetes and Early Menopause
Menopause—when a woman’s menstrual cycle (period) stops—usually happens after age 45 with the average age being 51. However, younger women with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes are more likely to go through menopause earlier in life.
This is concerning due to the many health risks that arise for women after menopause. For example, women are more likely to gain weight, develop heart disease, osteoporosis, and other health issues—all of which may further complicate diabetes management. Type 2 diabetes is also more common after menopause.
Menopause happens when a woman hasn’t had a menstrual cycle for one year. The transition begins as the ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone and usually lasts about seven years.
The Link Between Diabetes and Menopause
Women diagnosed with either type 1 (before age 30) or type 2 diabetes (between 30–39 years) are at higher risk of going through menopause at younger ages compared with similar women who don’t have diabetes.
In addition, being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later (age 50 or older) is associated with later natural menopause. There is no link between diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) and early menopause.
There may be something about diabetes that affects the body and reproductive system and how the ovaries function and age. Future research is needed to understand what might be behind the link between diabetes and early menopause.
Watch for Signs of Menopause
The symptoms leading to menopause can occur over several years. One of the first signs is a change in a woman’s menstrual cycles menstrual cycles (periods). Bleeding may become lighter or heavier, last for longer or shorter amounts of time, and the number of days between menstrual cycles (periods) may also change.
Other common signs include:
- Hot flashes or night sweats
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Trouble focusing
Talk About Menopause with Your Health Care Team
Women in general need to feel more comfortable and empowered to talk to their care team about menopause. For younger women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it may be even more important to broach the subject and better understand how menopause may affect efforts to manage your blood glucose (blood sugar) and weight, and how best to plan ahead to protect your health.
In general, menopause isn’t routinely discussed at medical visits, yet the symptoms can be unpleasant and impact your quality of life.
If you think you may be entering menopause, it might be helpful to:
- Keep a journal or use an app to track when you get your menstrual cycles (periods), for how long and the extent of bleeding, symptoms like hot flashes or changes in your mood or concentration, as well as your blood glucose levels.
- Ask about the role of diet in helping. For example, cutting out added sugars, eating more fiber and fresh fruits and vegetables, and making sure you’re getting enough calories.