Women who are diabetic still have many birth control options, like condoms, rings, and birth control pills, to choose from to help protect them against pregnancy. While these are considered the best options for diabetics, they are not the only possible options. You should always discuss with your health care provider which options will be best for your medical history and lifestyle, but here is our guide to the different options and how they might affect your condition.
An IUD is a small plastic device that can be wrapped in a thin film of copper or contain hormones. This device must be inserted in your uterus by a health care professional. Hormonal IUDs release progestin to help prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs, thickening your cervical mucus, and thinning the lining of your uterus to reduce your chance of egg fertilization and implantation. Hormonal IUDs effectively prevent pregnancy for three to five years, depending on which brand you choose.
Copper IUDs work by repelling sperm, which has a natural aversion to the metal. If sperm comes in contact with the copper, it will die, so these non-hormonal IUDs work by preventing the sperm from reaching the egg. These types of IUD can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years.
For people with diabetes, IUDs are not always the best option as there is a risk for pelvic infections during insertion. If there is bacteria or an infection present when an IUD is inserted, it can spread to the other parts of your reproductive system, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. Women with high blood sugar are more prone to pelvic infections, so it’s especially important that your physician check for STDs and treat them before insertion. The good news for diabetic women is that the IUD doesn’t interact with insulin, so aside from a possible increase in infections, there is little to no risk.
Condoms are a favorite option among many women who have diabetes. First, they can be extremely effective with proper use. They are also easy to acquire and can provide protection against STDs. Female condoms are also a good option, but these tend to be more expensive and are sometimes harder to find. The reason many women with diabetes prefer condoms for protection is because they are a barrier method and therefore contain no hormones. This means there is no risk of interaction with their medications or side effects that they will need to be concerned about.
Another popular birth control option for diabetic women is the ring. The ring is a flexible device that is inserted into the vagina. It can be worn for three weeks, and then, after a week off for menstruation, is replaced. The ring contains hormones that are released to prevent pregnancy. With proper use, this method can have a 99 percent effective rate.
The hormones contained in the ring are absorbed directly through the vagina, which many doctors feel can be beneficial for women who have diabetes. Since there are fewer systems in the body involved in metabolizing the medications, it’s less likely to have a negative reaction with diabetes medication. Some manufacturers of the ring do warn that women who have complications related to diabetes should seek other birth control methods.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills can be another option with diabetes, though there are some factors you should discuss with your health care provider before choosing this option. The birth control pills are taken once a day and increase the levels of estrogen and progestin in your body to prevent ovulation, increase cervical mucus to make it difficult for sperm to swim, and thin the lining of your uterus, so that if fertilization does occur, implantation would be difficult.
The pill is not recommended for women who have other risk factors on top of their diabetes, such as blood clots, heart disease, high blood pressure, or a history of stroke, but for others, it will pose few risks. Some women with diabetes who take hormonal birth control pills can develop insulin resistance and may need to have their insulin levels increased when they are on the pill. If you decide to use birth control pills, your sugar levels should be closely monitored.
Birth Control Shots
Birth control shots are not recommended for women who are diabetic because one of the main side effects associated with the hormonal birth control shot is weight gain. If you are diabetic, weight gain can lead to insulin resistance and more diabetes complications.
Diaphragms or Cervical Caps
Diaphragms and cervical caps are barrier method birth control methods that are inserted in the vagina and placed around the cervix so that they block the sperm from entering the cervix and reaching an egg to possibly fertilize.
While these types of barrier methods can be preferable for women with diabetes, since there are no hormones involved, there is a risk of increased urinary tract infections with the use of the spermicides that are often used with these devices. Since women with diabetes already have high blood sugar, they might not want to worry about the added risk of developing a urinary tract infection.
Finding the right birth control option for women who struggle with diabetes is also important because emergency contraception, such as “the morning-after pill,” might not be a good option for these patients. While these medications are ideal for preventing pregnancy when the possibility of conception occurs, it unleashes a large amount of hormones, which can cause blood sugar control issues immediately after taking it.
Choosing the right contraception when you’re managing a condition like diabetes can be difficult, but there are plenty of options out there. Talk with your health care provider about the benefits and risks of each one so that you can find an option that best suits your needs.