Diabetes and Fertility

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. While there are many complications that can arise with diabetes, often the correlation between diabetes and fertility are overlooked. Dr. Stephanie Singleton of The Fertility Center of Charleston provides individualized care through personalized treatment plans and works with diabetic patients. She states, “Diabetes can be a contributing factor to infertility. This can be the case if the female is diabetic, but also if the male is diabetic.”

For the female, poor glycemic control and the presence of diabetic complications are associated with menstrual irregularities and lower fertility. A Swedish study on fertility rates in women with Type 1 diabetes showed a reduction in fertility by 20%. (Medscape). While blood sugars can be a factor, another complication for some type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients may experience is with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. PCOS can lead to irregular or absent periods which can affect fertility. Dr. Singleton says there is hope for these patients that want to start a family. She explains, “PCOS can be treated with medication that enhances ovulation or makes you more sensitive to insulin, as insulin resistance often accompanies PCOS.”

A male partner with diabetes may also complicate fertility efforts. Diabetes can cause DNA damage to the sperm. (Human Reproduction Study) Dr. Singleton explains, “Diabetes in males can lead to reduced sperm quantity and quality. Impairment of any aspect of sperm function that affects its ability to fertilize an egg is called male factor infertility.” Normally, sperm must travel through the female reproductive tract to reach and fertilize an egg. This requires large numbers of moving sperm that possess the biochemical capability to undergo fertilization, which diabetes can complicate.

The good news is that there is hope for diabetic couples when seeking fertility help. Says Dr. Singleton, “It is important that a couple trying to conceive informs their physician if either partner is diabetic, as this may alter the treatment plan.” The Fertility Center of Charleston team is dedicated to providing highly individualized care and compassion to couples, women and men seeking fertility treatment. Dr. Singleton takes the time to listen to the patient’s history and experience and will work with diabetic patients to help them reach their goal of starting a family.