Skip to main content
Shared experience

Managing menopause and type 1 diabetes: Sarah Gatward

Sarah has been living with type 1 diabetes for almost 50 years. Here, Sarah talks about how her experiences of perimenopause impacted her daily life with type 1.

Sarah in her kitchen sat smiling at camera

Sarah Gatward was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March 1972, a few months after her seventh birthday. Sarah is currently in the process of writing a series of blogs every four weeks as she approaches her 50 year diagnosis of living with type 1. The idea behind these is to show why Sarah feels it is such an achievement to reach her 50 year diaversary.

Sarah is very content with what she has achieved in life so far but feels it is important to say that although she has not let type 1 stop her from doing what she wants to do, it has and can still get in the way and has to be factored into all decisions.

One of Sarah’s specialist subjects includes managing type 1 diabetes and the menopause.

Perimenopause

About ten years ago, I was talking to my parents over an early morning coffee. I was 43, had already been living with type 1 for 35 years and was used to just getting on with it all. However, it was getting harder and harder. Having successfully navigated two pregnancies and breastfeeding two babies, family life had settled into a reasonable routine and blood glucose levels were generally okay. But… this was all changing.

My frustrations

I was caught unaware. It seems ridiculous now but it was not on my radar. I went through a winter convinced I was fighting off the flu. I kept having these episodes where I would come over all hot & clammy but it didn’t ever develop into anything more. Arguably this is a problem that all women face when approaching the menopause. It is an area that I have found is not talked about much by my peer group, unless they have type 1. Then, it crops up regularly because of the realisation of how ill-informed we all feel.

So what has changed for me?

I started to notice changes in my early to mid 40s. The length of my cycles began to reduce, initially to 26 days and then averaging at around 22 to 24 days in length. They were still very regular but just significantly shorter. From the age of 50, my cycle lengths began to increase slightly again, returning to the 26 to 28 day length.

The specific problems of managing type 1 through these changes

My basal insulin requirements are reducing. Not in a predictable constant way. The general trend is downwards but there are a lot of bumpy up and down movements

Although I have still experienced a regular cycle, albeit often shorter in length, there has been far less certainty over how blood glucose readings are likely to behave throughout my cycle. There has definitely been a less predictable pattern of ovulation.

I am no longer certain of the dawn phenomenon response that has been a regular companion to my mornings. Instead, mornings can now be split into three or four different patterns – dawn phenomenon; foot to floor rise when getting out of bed; or foot to floor drop when getting out of bed which could eventually turn into a delayed foot to floor rise, almost an hour after getting up.

Night sweats and hot flushes have led to quite rapid increases in blood glucose and they are impossible to predict.

Exercise of any description has become more of a challenge, regardless of the level of intensity.

The burden of managing all of this mentally has been huge.

To read more from Sarah and her thoughts and experiences of living with type 1 for nearly 50 years you can visit her blog.

More shared experiences

Read more
Mia-Imani wearing a white halter neck prom dress, smiling for the photo and wearing a glucose sensor on her upper arm.
Shared experience

"I'm not as scared to wear my sensor out."

Mia-Imani Williams was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in September 2022. We spoke to 11-year-old Mia-Imani about diagnosis, wearing her glucose sensor to prom and the support she gets from her family and friends.

Read more
A close up photo of Billy Cole smiling.
Shared experience

A needle phobia doesn’t need to hold you back

When needle-phobic Billy Cole was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes aged 56, trying to finger prick and inject was consuming his whole life. Here, the former British Commonwealth-winning athlete shares how he overcame his phobias and gives insight to others dealing with similar fears.

Read more
Temi Olonisakin smiling at the camera over her shoulder with her continuous glucose monitor visible.
Shared experience

What would I do in a zombie apocalypse?

Temi Olonisakin has been living with type 1 for 12 years. A doctor herself, she shares what she’s learned about managing type 1 diabetes and her emotional wellbeing.  

Read more
A photo of Dr Chloe Rackham wearing a labcoat.

"I understand how tough it can be living with type 1 and this motivates me to work towards a cure"

Dr Chloe Rackham was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 13 and is now running a JDRF-funded lab at the University of Exeter. Chloe tells us how having type 1 helps motivate her and how she switches off from her type 1.

Read more
Reece Parkinson wearing a running jacket and out in the countryside
Shared experience

Community, challenges and technology – Reece Parkinson on life with type 1

Broadcaster and communications specialist Reece Parkinson was diagnosed with type 1 when he was 26. Since then, he's used his platform to inspire others.

Read more
Mischa Rodgers, who lives with type 1, at her job as a production coordinator for Sky Sports.
Shared experience

"Being honest allows people to help and support you"

Sports-mad production coordinator Mischa Rodgers has had to learn how to manage adrenaline surges in her fast-paced job with Sky Sports.

Read more
Alys wearing her Dexcom glucose sensor with her JDRF teddy bear, Rufus.
Shared experience

The ELSA study enables early detection of type 1 diabetes

“The long-term health benefits of screening outweigh the short-term stress” – Cerilyn tells us about her experience of finding out her daughter is in the early stages of developing type 1.

Read more
A photo of a woman posing with her hand on her hip in front of a grassy lawn.
Shared experience

Living with type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism and vitiligo

Rebekah’s story: “I had no idea that having one autoimmune condition makes you more at risk of getting others”

Connect with us on social