Women with type 1 diabetes may have a shorter length of time to conceive and bear children compared to those without the disease, new research suggests.
The hormone insulin plays an important part in regulating female reproductive function, and people with type 1 diabetes don't make enough insulin on their own. But little was known about how type 1 diabetes affects the start of menopause, when a woman's ability to bear children ends.
To find out, researchers looked at nearly 300 women and compared women with type 1 diabetes to those without diabetes.
The findings showed that compared to women without diabetes, those with type 1 start menstruating later and enter menopause earlier. The researchers said this is because insulin deficiency and high blood sugar levels disrupt normal function of their reproductive system.
The study authors noted that these findings only apply to women who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before they started having periods, a milestone known as menarche.
Menopause is associated with a number of changes in metabolism and physical function, and early natural menopause is linked to increased risk of heart disease and death. As such, there is a need to identify factors that may help predict when a woman will enter menopause, the researchers noted.
In addition, more research is needed to identify modifiable factors that contribute to early menopause in women with diabetes in order to improve their reproductive health, according to study author Yan Yi, of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues.
The findings were published online March 1 in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
"This study found that women with the onset of type 1 diabetes before menarche were at increased risk for a shorter reproductive lifespan. Thus, these women are not only at risk for premature ovarian aging because of early-onset type 1 diabetes, they are also at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and early mortality because of early natural menopause," said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.
"Understanding these risks and targeting appropriate risk-reducing strategies are key to optimizing the health and quality of life of these women," she added in a society news release.