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Shared experience

“Menopause isn’t something you need to go through on your own”

Dawn’s story

Dawn Adams, specialist type 1 diabetes midwife

I’m a midwife with a specialist interest in diabetes and pregnancy. I’m completing a PhD in type 1, pregnancy and wearable technology. I’ve always had an interest in reproductive health, but when I started experiencing menopausal symptoms, I realised how little information is available for women with type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diagnosis

When I was diagnosed with type 1 during my last term at university the hospital team advised me not to have any more than two children. They also told me that I would probably be advised to have a hysterectomy as a form of permanent contraception.

This was during the early 1990s though and thankfully that recommendation is no longer made due to significant improvements in pregnancy outcomes for women with diabetes. These are in large part due to the types of insulins we now have access to and advances in glucose monitoring technologies.

Insulin sensitivity and resistance

Things began to change in my early 40s. Over 18-24 months, my cycle became irregular with gaps of 2-10 weeks. I swung from insulin sensitivity to insulin resistance, making it difficult to find the middle ground.

I’d become aware of changes in memory, it was like brain fog. Hot flushes started in the core of my body and radiated out, like switching on a gas stove. I had night sweats and was much more irrational with my moods.

I tried to learn more about type 1 diabetes and menopause, but all I found was that women should check their blood glucose more often. With a DIY closed loop, my insulin profiles and FreeStyle Libre readings appeared to be fine. But when I looked at my AndroidAPS reports, I could see how much more insulin I needed to compensate for those fluctuations.

Finding support in others

A friend with type 1 had spoken on social media about her menopause experiences. We got together with other women living with type 1 to have an open and honest conversation about what was going on.

There were things we were all experiencing, like mood changes, irritability, sleepiness, brain fog and bizarre things going on with blood glucose. None of us ever thought we’d experience menopause and with nothing out there to give us any guidance, it’s really helped to have the support of a strong peer network of women.

A helping hand

I’d always been told I couldn’t have HRT, but my GP was lovely about what I was experiencing and was willing to prescribe oestrogen patches and progesterone tablets. They’ve made a significant difference to my symptoms and even improved my blood glucose issues.

Having the technology has been a massive bonus. If I was back to injections and finger pricking, I think I’d be feeling very distressed, but having my Libre2, insulin pump and Android phone eases the burden.

I’d encourage other women experiencing menopause or perimenopause to have a conversation with their GP. Find other women going through it to reassure you. Menopause isn’t something you need to go through on your own.

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