Diabetes is highly prevalent in India, so much that the country has the second-highest diabetic caseload in the world. This chronic disease, characterized by high blood glucose levels, impacts life immensely and puts you at risk of other diseases too. COVID-19 is one such example. But, do you know that it has a major impact on the reproductive health of both males and females? If you are trying to conceive unsuccessfully, getting your blood sugar levels checked might help you a great deal. To understand this issue in detail, Onlymyhealth spoke to Dr. Hrishikesh Pai, Consultant Gynaecologist & Infertility Specialist.
Before delving into its impact on male and female fertility, let us understand diabetes in a bit more detail. As you might already know, this chronic disease is characterized by high glucose, also called sugar, levels in the blood. It happens because:
- Insulin is the hormone responsible for glucose, from food, entering your cells for energy.
- The hormone is produced by the pancreas.
- However, in some cases either the pancreas produces less of this hormone or due to insulin resistance, glucose cannot enter the cells.
- As a result, it builds up in the bloodstream.
- Prolonged high blood sugar level causes diabetes, which if untreated can have life-long and life-altering consequences.
(Photo Credit: Freepik)
There are many types of diabetes:
- Type-1 Diabetes: In some individuals, their immune system attacks and destroys pancreatic cells. Hence, the organ can no longer produce insulin, leading to sugar build-up in the bloodstream. This is type-1 diabetes. Usually, children and young adults are diagnosed with this. To manage it, the patient has to take a dose of insulin every day.
- Type-2 Diabetes: It is when your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or cannot use it well. Type-2 diabetes is generally seen in middle-aged and older individuals.
- Gestational Diabetes: Some women develop diabetes during pregnancy, which goes away once the baby is born. It is called gestational diabetes. Such women get at risk of diabetes later in their lives.
It is to be noted here that while type-1 and type-2 diabetes affect infertility in both men and women, gestational diabetes can affect pregnancy itself.
How Diabetes Affects Fertility
Not many people know that diabetes can impact both male and female fertility.
Diabetes Impact On Male Fertility
This chronic disease affects the sexual health of men in the following ways:
- About 50% of men with diabetes suffer from erectile dysfunction, said Dr. Pai.
- It can also cause retrograde ejaculation.
- Diabetes also affects testosterone production and lowers sperm quality.
- It is worrying as it means “diabetes can damage sperm DNA by producing a high rate of DNA fragmentation,” the doctor said. When an egg is fertilized by a sperm with fragmented DNA, it is less likely to turn into a healthy embryo. It can affect uterine implantation and increase the risk of spontaneous abortions. This affects the success rate of IVF procedures as well.
(Photo Credit: Freepik)
Diabetes Impact On Female Fertility
This is how diabetes impacts female fertility:
- Diabetes, if left unmanaged, increases women’s risk of ovulation problems and cervical-vaginal infections.
- It also puts expecting mothers at risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
- Not just that, it can impact the child too. Birth defects and neonatal complications are some of the risks diabetes in women poses.
Hence, women must take steps to keep their blood sugar levels in check.
Diabetes & Fertility: What Are The Options?
Diabetes can have an impact on fertility. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure healthy pregnancy:
- Firstly, talk to your doctor, who might refer you to an infertility specialist or pre-conception care team, said Dr. Pai.
- Managing diabetes can help restore fertility.
- If not, you can always try other options, such as In Vitro Fertilization coupled with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (IVF + ICSI), the doctor explained.
When trying to conceive or during pregnancy, you must take steps to manage diabetes. Hence, eat well, exercise, and get your blood sugar levels checked regularly. Stress management and resting well are some other steps you must take to manage diabetes and pregnancy.
(With inputs from Dr. Hrishikesh Pai, Consultant Gynaecologist & Infertility Specialist)
Photo Credit: Freepik