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Navigating menopause and perimenopause with diabetes

Project summary

Professor Vivien Coates will study the experiences of women with diabetes who are going through menopause to understand its impact on blood sugars and diabetes management, and where support is missing. In the future this could help health services to provide the best possible care for women with diabetes to support them with the unique challenges the menopause can bring.

Background to research

Changing hormone levels can have a big impact on blood sugar levels. The same hormones that fluctuate every 28 days during your menstrual cycle (most notably oestrogen and progesterone) fluctuate much less predictably during menopause. And because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to adjusting insulin and medication doses in response to menopause, this can make controlling blood sugar levels much more challenging.  

Thousands of women in the UK with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are currently experiencing menopause. But at the moment, the advice and support for managing the condition through the menopause just isn’t there. We don’t know enough about the emotional or social effects of menopause, and what would help women to manage their diabetes when dealing with additional hormonal changes. Professor Coates will help to fill this gap. 

Research aims

Professor Coates will investigate factors that impact blood sugar levels and diabetes self-management during menopause. The research team will interview small groups of women with lived experience of diabetes and menopause to hear their story. They’ll then design an online survey, which women across the UK will be invited to take part in. 

All the information they gather will provide answers to three important questions: 

  1. Does the menopause have a different effect on women with and women without diabetes? 
  2. Are the experiences of menopause the same for women with type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
  3. What type of support do women need and how accessible is it now? 

The researchers will work to make sure they hear from women from a wide range of ethnic, social, and financial backgrounds. 

Their findings will provide vitally needed evidence to understand what care and support for women during the menopause should look like. If the experiences of women from South Asian and Black African and Caribbean communities are found to differ from those from other cultures, the researchers will make additional recommendations attuned to their specific needs. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This project will shine a light on a topic that’s rarely talked about and under-researched, giving us the most detailed understanding to date of the experiences of women with diabetes during the menopause. 

These insights will be used to shape the future of care for women managing their diabetes during the menopause, filling an urgent gap. In the future, this means women will be able to get the tailored support they need to deal with the additional challenges they face, helping them to live healthier and happier lives.  

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