Fertility and Diabetes

Diabetes is a fairly common disease in the UK, and can affect people of many different ages depending on its type and the reasons for its onset. The illness is strongly related to both diet and genetics, and once it has been diagnosed is a lifelong condition which can affect your fertility on top of its other effects.

What is diabetes?

At present it is thought that about 3 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, and a large number are affected by the condition but don’t know about it yet. So what is diabetes?

One of your body’s most important fuels is sugar, or glucose, and the ability to use glucose properly is important to maintaining good health. The body’s mechanism of absorbing glucose is to release a hormone called insulin into the blood, where it gets your body’s cells to take up glucose and make use of it. Diabetes is basically a disruption of this system because the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin (Type I diabetes), if at all, or the insulin that is produced doesn’t work as it should (Type 2 diabetes). In either case the result is the same, your body can’t absorb the glucose it needs to work properly so it just collects in your blood where it doesn’t do you any good.

What does diabetes have to do with male fertility?

It has only been recently that male fertility has been found to suffer under the effects of diabetes. More specifically, diabetes seems to damage the quality of sperm, the male sex cells which interact with their female counterpart (the egg) to conceive. Damaged sperm are much less likely to successfully conceive, and even after conception, are thought to increase the chances of miscarriage.

While not a predominant cause of male infertility, diabetes, and in particular type I diabetes, seems to play a role in male infertility. Fortunately this understanding means that steps can be taken to improve your fertility, as will be discussed below.

What does diabetes have to do with female fertility?

Diabetes doesn’t have a direct effect on fertility in that it doesn’t seem to affect the actual conception of a child, instead it seems to disrupt the ability of a pregnancy to progress as it causes early miscarriages. The risk of this is particularly high if you don’t know you have diabetes or aren’t managing it properly, and in some cases the body just aborts the pregnancy within a few days of a successful conception. This can come across as infertility as it is often impossible to tell you are pregnant within a few short days of conception.

What can be done about diabetes and fertility?

Unfortunately the UK is seeing an unprecedented rise in the number of incidences of diabetes as a consequence of increasing obesity, which in turn is largely linked to unhealthy diets heavily reliant on unhealthy sugars and fats.

The best solution is prevention as the disease can’t be cured. You can avoid diabetes, even if you have a family history of the illness, by making sure your diet isn’t full of sugary foods and by keeping to a healthy weight. Not only will this avoid diabetes and its effects on your fertility, but a healthy diet and good weight are also proven methods of helping your fertility.

If you already suffer from diabetes, then managing your disease well will prevent it from taking its toll on your fertility. What that entails is keeping to a healthy diet which is low in sugars, exercising regularly and controlling your weight, keeping regular checks on your blood sugar and taking your insulin when you’re meant to.

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