One for the ladies: what they don’t tell us about periods, blood sugars, and type 1 diabetes…

… well, at least understand them – for better blood sugar balancing :-)

Yep – I’m writing a blog post on periods.

… with good reason – promise. You see, I noticed a pattern in my monthly cycle before I went on insulin, and there’s an even stronger pattern now I’m on insulin – and I don’t quite know why us girlies aren’t told about this when we’re handed the insulin in the first place.

For some women, I know it literally takes *years* to figure out the connection – and for others, well, they think they can spot a patten – but ask their DSN/Endo/Helpful Diabetes Specialist – only to be told they’ve never heard of a connection between menstruation and blood sugars.

Not confusing for peeps at all. It’s not like we’re already trying to juggle a mathematical feat worthy of Einstein each time we inject insulin anyway; knowing there’s (for many women) a monthly pattern wouldn’t be helpful to know in advance at all…. {sarcastic, moi?}.

To be fair – not everyone has the same pattern – of course not – this is type 1 diabetes we’re talking about here… if only things were as simple as “take this dose, three times a day – and all will be dandy” – which I think is possibly what people who aren’t t1’s *think* happens…. but life with the big D just doesn’t roll that way….
So – factors such as the pill (and probably other hormone based contraception’s) will very much affect this pattern – as will other hormonal “stuff” we women have the joys of; like PCOS, the menopause, thyroid things and so on….

But – by and large – I know a lot of people follow the pattern I experience; which is why I thought it would be helpful to share – particularly after someone mailed me via my Facebook page recently to ask if there was a link; she couldn’t figure out why she was running so high the week before her period – and then her numbers would drop back again – and when she called her local specialist, they said there was no explanation…. well – there is – and knowing it helps us manage it – so; periods is the topic of the day!

As you might have guessed already, it’s all to do with our hormones…. during the first two weeks of our monthly cycle we produce more oestrogen; steadily at first – then increasingly as we move towards ovulation – all designed by the wonders on nature to help us release the egg… but guess what – oestrogen also happens to make us highly insulin sensitive! Thus, if you’re like me, you’ll need your lowest amount of insulin during the first couple of weeks of your cycle – and your very lowest doses just a few days before you ovulate.

Understanding how hormone cycles affect blood sugars

Around mid-cycle we gals ovulate (typically day 14 if you’ve a 28 day cycle; though this can also vary depending on your cycle length – of course – but it is *usually* somewhere between day 14-16 for most people) – and immediately after that our oestrogen levels drop down and our bodies start producing progesterone – initially to help raise body temperature and create a better environment for the egg to implant into the womb… Then the last 7-10 days before your actual period your body creates more and more progesterone; typically rising quite dramatically in the three days before your actual period starts… Which, guess what – makes us insulin resistant of course!

Which means that, for me personally, I have to increase my insulin use gradually from around two weeks into my cycle – and in the few days before my period I have to literally double my mealtime insulin – despite eating the same foods… Which is a b*tch – cos if you’re anything like me (and most girls!) thats the time of the month when you most want to be eating the carby, comforting stuff! Gawd mother nature has a funny sense of humour sometimes…. ;-)

I’ve read some women describe taking their “normal” dose of insulin in the couple of days before their periods as like they may as well be injecting water, for all the effect it has – and I know the feeling…. not to mention how un-nerving that can be if you don’t know the flip why.

Sooo…. despite the slight irony of having a cycle that makes you least able to scoff your face when you’re most likely to want to, it’s a super-helpful thing to know for us ladies; cos it explains why everything can go to pot for seemingly no reason whatsoever – plus if we know that’s how our cycle rolls, we can at least roll with it… in an upping-the-insulin-dose-without-having-a-total-panic-we’re-always-going-to-need-mega-doses-of-inslin-kinda-way. Phew.

And I don’t know about you – but a few days before my period is the LAST time I need to be stressing about why I’m sat up in double-figures, or why I’ve suddenly seemingly become immune to insulin; neither do great things for an already ‘bouncier’ mood, if ya catch my drift…. ;-)

Three important points to note:

  • First and foremost – the dose tweaking I describe are very much based on my personal experiences…. and whilst I know many others experience the same pattern from reading forum posts and so on, it’s *very* important that you follow your own cycle and record your blood sugars for *at least* two or three months before tweaking your doses – so you can be confident that you’ve established a pattern.
  • Secondly – watch for the drop after your period starts. For me this isn’t immediate and tends to happen around day four after my period starts – but for some it is immediate and sudden on the day their period starts – so they have to be super vigilant about cutting back the insulin doses so as not to end up in hypo-hell. For other women further, they experience the drop just before their periods…. its basically all to do with how quickly the progesterone clears from your system; for me it seems to be gradual and slow, but for some women it’s super-quick. This is one of the reasons that I only tweak my mealtime doses – as I find it easier to switch back – but I know some women prefer to change both their long and short acting… work out what suits you.
  • Lastly – all this will change if you a) change contraception to, or from, one thats hormone based (like the pill), b) become pregnant or c) enter the menopause.

That’s the wonder of the big D – it likes to keep us on our toes!

Hopefully, this helps make sense of just one of the seemingly inexplicable randomness of the blood-sugar roller coaster…. And here endeth the post on all things menstrual….

Ooohhh… minstrels… xo

– did someone say hormonal..? ;-)


2 thoughts on “One for the ladies: what they don’t tell us about periods, blood sugars, and type 1 diabetes…

  1. Pingback: Putting it all into perspective: hypo’s, yoga – and time… | My Sweet Life

  2. Pingback: 24 weeks! | My Sweet Life

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