Diabetes & Birth Control

Diabetes & birth control at a glance

  • Birth control pills, patches, implants, injections, and rings are generally considered to be safe forms of contraception for diabetic women, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
  • However, the estrogen in birth control pills can raise blood glucose levels, which increase a diabetic’s resistance to insulin and may require an adjustment in the insulin she receives.
  • Because of the effects of estrogen, some physicians do not prescribe hormone-based birth control for some diabetic women.
  • The ADA says that combination birth control pills containing synthetic estrogen and norgestinate are best for women with diabetes.

The effect of birth control on diabetes

The inconclusive results of various research studies have led to controversy over the potential harmful effect of birth control pills for diabetic women. Some studies show that women who take birth control pills or other methods containing estrogen have higher blood glucose levels and blood cholesterol levels. Other studies show no differences in those levels between women taking birth control pills and women who don’t.

Factors to consider

  • Higher glucose levels resulting from the estrogen in birth control pills may require an increase in a diabetic woman’s need for insulin.
  • Higher cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart attack, and diabetics already have an increased risk of heart attack.
  • Some physicians recommend that diabetic women take birth control pills with the lowest dose of estrogen possible for effective contraception.
  • Other birth control methods that employ estrogen, such as implants, patches, injections and vaginal rings, can also affect a woman’s diabetes.
  • Studies indicate that diabetic women who take birth control pills for more than two years may increase their risk of experiencing complications, including:
    • the kidney disease diabetic nephropathy
    • the eye condition diabetic retinopathy
    • the nerve disorder diabetic neuropathy.

For these reasons, some doctors choose not to prescribe birth control pills for diabetic women. The safest course of action for women with diabetes is to discuss birth control options with their physician.

Can birth control pills cause diabetes?

No. While birth control pills may have an effect on diabetes, they do not cause diabetes.