Reproductive Health for Teen Girls with Diabetes
As a teenage girl with diabetes, you have more on your plate than your friends, classmates, and peers that don’t have diabetes. And that’s okay! You can meet the challenges of diabetes and enjoy life as a teen by managing your blood sugar (blood glucose) and arming yourself with accurate diabetes know-how.
Living with diabetes, your reproductive health is something you should keep top-of-mind, too. With hormones, pregnancy, sex, and so much more affecting your blood sugar and health, this is something you’ll want to know about.
First things first, keep your blood sugar on target
It’s hard work to keep your blood sugar and A1C (a measure of your blood sugar over two to three months) in your target range. You probably already check your blood sugar a lot each day to make sure it doesn’t go too low or too high. As your body changes, you’ll find that it might be harder to keep your blood sugar within your target range.
You can change some things that affect your blood sugar, like your diet and how active you are. Other things are out of your control like, hormones, emotions, and how you grow and develop. Talk to your doctor about what your target blood sugar range is, what your target A1C is, and how best to reach your goals.
Puberty and diabetes
Are you growing taller and weighing more? Your body is getting ready to become an adult. You see changes on the outside of your body like hair in your armpits and genitals, and your breasts begin to develop. There are also changes happening inside your body, like in your reproductive system, that get your body read to be able to become pregnant.
Living with Your Hormones
Your body uses special chemical messengers called hormones to help it grow and function. During puberty, these hormones change. As an egg ripens each month and becomes ready to be released down the fallopian tube, your body makes more hormones—this is when you get your period.
Having your period can make diabetes harder to control. Hormones change in the days before and during your period. During your period, you will need to check your blood sugar more often. You also might need to adjust your insulin or change your meal plan. After your period, your hormones go back to the way they were.
Talk to Your Health Care Professional
For many teens, it’s hard to talk about topics like sex and birth control with a health professional. It might be embarrassing, you might not know what to ask, or it might be something else. Regardless of why you might be hesitant to talk to your doctor, remember that they are there to answer any health-related questions you have—even about sex. Your doctor is sensitive, used to hearing the questions you are embarrassed about, and should keep things confidential.
Talk with Your Parents
Sometimes it’s hard to talk with a parent about sex, but parents can be helpful in giving information and advice. Think about which parent you would feel the most comfortable speaking with and begin with asking general advice about the topic you are concerned about. And ask questions! Give your parent the chance to give you information. It’s A LOT easier than having them ask you all the questions.
Before getting pregnant
Being Ready for Pregnancy
In the future, if you are actively planning to have a baby, you’ll need to be aware of how your blood sugar will impact both you and your baby’s health during pregnancy.
The Glucose Connection
High blood sugar levels in the first eight weeks of development are hard on the baby because its pancreas hasn’t developed yet. The baby can’t make its own insulin, so it will depend on your blood sugar for its energy.
The baby will start making its own insulin after its pancreas develops. When your blood sugar is high, so is your baby’s. If blood sugar levels stay high, the baby’s pancreas will continue to make a lot of insulin as it grows in your uterus. When the baby is born, it will stop getting all its blood sugar from you, leading to problems with the baby having low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) after birth.
Once you reach an age where pregnancy is a realistic and safe option for you, you should begin preconception counseling before you begin trying for pregnancy to make sure you and your baby stay healthy through the entire process.
In preconception counseling, you will:
- Keep tight control of your blood sugar
- Get medical exams more frequently
- Change your medicines, if needed
- Consult with your doctor to determine which vitamins, if any, to take, like calcium or folic acid
- Get up to date with vaccinations
- Avoid smoking, drugs, alcohol, and other unhealthy choices
You and your health care team will decide when it’s safe to stop your family planning method and try to get pregnant.
Take the First Step
You may not be sure if or when you’ll be ready for sex and pregnancy. Ultimately, the choice is your own. Around the time you get your first period is right time to start the conversation around sex, pregnancy, and how your diabetes will impact these. Talk to someone you trust, whether that’s your doctor, parent, or older family member. They want to see you thrive as much as we do.