Women and Diabetes: Understanding the Unique Risks and How to Manage Them

Diabetes impacts women and men in almost equal numbers, with about half of all diagnosed diabetes cases in the United States being women. The big difference comes in managing the disease. The reality is women have a lot more on their plate when it comes to blood sugar control and diabetes-related complications. In this post, we’ll look at some of the added concerns that women with diabetes face daily and what you can do to be healthy and feel your best.

Let’s start with one of the most critical and common comorbidities among all people with diabetes (PWDs) – the increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular Disease and Women with Diabetes

The fact that diabetes increases the risk of heart disease should not be shocking news to you if you’re living with the disease. But did you know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk for women is double that of men? The fact is men with diabetes are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease than men without the disease. Women with diabetes, on the other hand, are four times more likely to suffer from heart disease than their non-diabetic counterparts. On top of the added risk, women who wind up having heart attacks tend to have worse outcomes than men.

The numbers don’t lie, but keeping blood sugar in check and as close to your target range as possible can reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications, whether male or female. 

Other Common Diabetes-Related Complications

Unfortunately, heart disease isn’t the only diabetes complication that comes with increased risk for women. Others include diabetic retinopathy and an increased risk for blindness, added risk for kidney disease, and a greater incidence of depression – likely fueled by many of the added diabetes management worries and challenges women face. 

Diabetes also impacts women in particular ways men do not have to concern themselves with simply due to a woman’s biology.

An Increased Risk of UTIs

Over half of all women will get a urinary tract infection at some point in their lifetimes. The risk for women with diabetes, however, is significantly higher, particularly if blood sugar is elevated. Bacteria feed on sugar, so when there is more in the bloodstream, infection is easier to take hold. Additionally, some women with diabetes also have circulatory issues, which can impede the body’s ability to fight infection. Finally, diabetes can cause the bladder difficulty emptying fully, creating an environment where bacteria can grow.

The best way to prevent a UTI is to keep your blood sugar in check. You should also flush your system by drinking plenty of water and urinating as soon as you need to go rather than waiting until the bladder is full. Wearing breathable cotton underwear can also help inhibit the growth of bacteria. 

How Diabetes Can Affect Your Period

Right before it begins and during a woman’s menstrual cycle, ordinary changes in hormone levels can impact blood sugar. Some women with diabetes also experience heavier flows and longer-lasting periods. It’s a good idea to check blood sugar more often during your period to see if you can identify any patterns in blood sugar levels. Some women who require insulin to control blood glucose may need to adjust the dosage during their periods. Speak with your diabetes physician and care team about diabetes management during your menstrual cycle.

Diabetes Can Impact Your Sex Life

Let’s first state that most women with diabetes enjoy healthy sex lives. For some, however, diabetes can diminish sex drive and make intercourse uncomfortable due to vaginal dryness, usually related to reduced blood flow, nerve damage, and medications. If you are experiencing sexual problems, talk to your doctor. Various ways to address the issue generally depend on the root cause.

Pregnancy and Diabetes

Most women diagnosed with diabetes enjoy healthy pregnancies. However, diabetes can make it more difficult to become pregnant. It’s also imperative to have your diabetes well under control before getting pregnant to avoid complications for yourself and your unborn child. The key is planning for your pregnancy.

In terms of the mother’s safety, high blood sugar can increase the risk of preeclampsia, a complication associated with high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine that can damage the kidneys and other organs. High blood sugar also elevates the risk of a miscarriage. 

For a baby, high blood sugar in the mother – especially during the first two months of pregnancy when the organs are developing – can lead to congenital disabilities, premature birth, an overweight baby that makes delivery more complex, and breathing problems in the infant directly after birth.

If you are living with diabetes and want to have a baby, it’s essential to make sure your blood sugar levels are in the target range and have been safely established in that range for a while. Speak with your healthcare team about creating a pregnancy plan to keep your blood glucose in check. Eating healthy, moving, adjusting medications as needed, and testing blood sugar more often are all ways to ensure you enjoy a happy, healthy pregnancy. 

Menopause and Blood Sugar

As women age and enter menopause, their bodies produce less estrogen. This is perfectly normal, but it can also lead to unexpected ups and downs in blood sugar, making it harder to manage diabetes effectively. Additionally, hot flashes can occur that disrupt a sound night’s sleep, and we know that sleep is important for proper blood sugar control. The risk of heart disease also increases with the onset of menopause. 

Menopause is an inevitable part of a woman’s life, and managing the symptoms can be more challenging for those with diabetes. Nevertheless, the situation can be managed. Suppose you notice it’s becoming more difficult to keep your blood sugar in the target range or experience any other changes impacting your diabetes management program. In that case, speaking with your doctor and health care team is essential. 

You might require additional medication or benefit by making simple diet adjustments. 


Diabetes poses some significant extra challenges for women. Additionally, almost all of them can be managed when appropriately addressed. We hope you found this post informative and helpful. If you have any tips or additional insights for women living with diabetes, we’d love to learn about them. Please share in the comment section below.


At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to helping those with diabetes manage blood sugar with a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at up to 65% less than those found at most pharmacies and suppliers.