Diabetes can hamper chances of conceiving: IVF expert doctor explains how high blood sugar can hurt fertility

Not only does diabetes hamper a person’s fertility, but a study has also further highlighted the importance of research into intergenerational and even transgenerational effects of diabetes on male fertility and the health of offspring.


  • Diabetes can hamper a male or female patient’s chances of parenthood.
  • Also, a diabetic person can become pregnant but if the diabetes is uncontrolled, it can affect the health of the embryo.
  • A study finds that the damage does not stop with the diabetic parent or offspring, but also affects the embryo’s future by adversely influencing its reproductive future.

The effects of diabetes mellitus include long-term damages, dysfunctions, and failures of various organs. While one knows about the damage to organs, kidneys, eyes, heart etc that diabetes can cause, an important but often little understood complication of diabetes is the disturbance in the male and the female reproductive system.

Male fertility is vulnerable to the ravages of high blood sugar as glucose metabolism is an important event in spermatogenesis. A study titled “The effects of diabetes on male fertility and epigenetic regulation during spermatogenesis” published in the Asian Journal of Andrology claims that glucose metabolism is of great importance for sperm cells, either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes could have detrimental effects on male fertility, especially on sperm quality, such as sperm motility, sperm DNA integrity, and ingredients of seminal plasma.

This study carried out jointly by two Chinese Universities claims that a pregnant mother’s uncontrolled diabetic state can leave damaging effects on the embryo’s reproductive organs that may stay permanent through the (remainder and adult) life of the baby. Maternal hyperglycemia has significant deleterious effects on the structure and function of both the reproductive endocrine and testicular structures. This detrimental change is likely to occur during fetal life and remains during postnatal life.

“Parental nutrition and metabolism are critical determinants of adult offspring health. The effects of maternal or paternal diabetes described in this review have further highlighted the importance of research into intergenerational and even transgenerational effects of diabetes on male fertility and the health of offspring,” states the study.

In women, diabetes is associated with lower rates of fertility. According to Diabetes.co.uk, there are a number of reasons which can play a part including, obesity, being underweight, having diabetic complications, having PCOS and having an autoimmune disease. But this should not be considered the end of a woman’s chances to conceive. Many women with diabetes are able to conceive, particularly if diabetes is well controlled and healthy body weight is maintained.

Dr Kaberi Banerjee, infertility and IVF Specialist, trained from the prestigious Guys and St Thomas Hospital, London, shared with Times Now the various reasons why some diabetic women face difficulty in conceiving or developing pregnancy-related complications.

“Many women suffer from diabetes because of obesity and polycystic ovaries. This indirectly leads to difficulty in pregnancy rates. Many times uncontrolled diabetes can lead to miscarriages and congenital malformations and later on preterm delivery. Therefore it is advisable to control blood sugar level before pregnancy is attempted,” Dr Kaberi Banerjee said.

Dr Banerjee said the reasons for infertility aren’t always observable to the layperson. For this reason, if you have been trying to conceive for a long time, please get help, she urges. Dr Banerjee is a noted IVF specialist and the Director of Advance Fertility and Gynaecology Centre, South Delhi. She completed her MBBS and MD in Obstetrics & Gynecology from the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. She has done her membership from the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (MRCOG), London and is also a member of the National Academy of Medical Sciences (MNAMS).

Dr Kaberi Banerjee also states that there are many medical issues that can impact your fertility. “Some common ones include PCOS and endometriosis. Fibroids, Polyps and other uterine conditions need to be evaluated. Endometrial health is key to successful pregnancy and certain conditions like Tuberculosis may damage the endometrium. If you have a medical condition known to impact fertility, it is important to speak with your doctor sooner rather than later. Thyroid imbalances affect fertility and must be corrected. You should also see a fertility specialist if you have a history of miscarriages or are aware of a genetic or other medical condition that would impact fertility. Blocked fallopian tubes can generate multiple issues as well. If anything prevents the fallopian tubes from working properly, or if scarring blocks the sperm or egg from the meeting, you won’t be able to get pregnant,” Dr Banerjee said.

November 14 is World Diabetes Day. What better day than this date to become aware of your health and do one of the two things as may be applicable in your case:

  1. Get tested and if you are diabetic, seek immediate medical advice and manage your condition so that you can lead a happy, healthy life.
  2. Get tested anyway, and if you are not diabetic, learn how you can keep the scourge of diabetes away for your entire life.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.


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