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Complications of diabetes
Primary & secondary infertility
This section: Infertility
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Diabetes, and certain disorders that are sometimes associated with diabetes (such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and thyroid disorders) may lead to primary or secondary infertility. Those who suffer from metabolic disorders like pre-diabetes and insulin resistance syndrome may also have impaired infertility. Often, simply losing weight and making positive changes in lifestyle may improve ovulatory function and fertility.
(Excerpts from Wikipedia.com)
According to the
American Society for Reproductive Medicine, infertility affects about 6.1
million people in the U.S., equivalent to ten percent of the reproductive age
population. Female infertility accounts for one third of infertility cases, male
infertility for another third, combined male and female infertility for another
15%, and the remainder of cases are unexplained
infertility is difficulty conceiving after already having conceived and carried
a normal pregnancy. Apart from various medical conditions (e.g. hormonal), this
may come as a result of age and stress felt to provide a sibling for their first
child. Technically, secondary infertility is not present if there has been a
change of partners.
In some cases, both
the man and woman may be infertile or sub-fertile, and the couple's infertility
arises from the combination of these conditions. In other cases, the cause is
suspected to be immunological or genetic; it may be that each partner is
independently fertile but the couple cannot conceive together without
In about 15 % of
cases the infertility investigation will show no abnormalities. In these cases
abnormalities are likely to be present but not detected by current methods.
Possible problems could be that the egg is not released at the optimum time for
fertilization, that it may not enter the fallopian tube, sperm may not be able
to reach the egg, fertilization may fail to occur, transport of the zygote may
be disturbed, or implantation fails. It is increasingly recognized that egg
quality is of critical importance and women of advanced maternal age have eggs
of reduced capacity for normal and successful fertilization.
How Diabetes and other Metabolic Disorders can Affect Fertility
One of the functions of insulin is to act as a "fat" storing hormone. Excess insulin can contribute to weight gain which in turn can decrease fertility. A balance of hormones contributes to the ovulatory cycle of women, and carrying excess weight can cause an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. This can lead to an interruption of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles.
Many with type 2 diabetes are also insulin resistant, that is, they make insulin but do not respond well to the normal action of insulin. Women that are insulin resistance overproduce insulin in order for their blood glucose levels to remain in a normal range. This overproduction of insulin, especially when there is an accompanying unhealthy lifestyle, can lead to weight problems, as well as a disruption of normal hormone productions, setting the stage for female infertility.
Insulin resistance is commonly seen in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Treatment often includes insulin sensitizing medication (such as Glucophage) which may help restore normal ovulatory function. Losing weight, even as little as 15% of excess body weight may also result in spontaneous resumption of ovulation.
For those considering pregnancy, make sure that your blood glucose levels are well under control prior to becoming pregnant as well as during pregnancy to help reduce the risk of diabetes associated complications with pregnancy.
Our comprehensive infertility section includes links to our "Adoption" information pages.