When talking about diabetes management, sex remains a taboo subject. You hear a lot about risks for eyes, nerves, kidneys and the heart, but a lot less about possible problems in the bedroom—be they psychological barriers or dysfunctions.
The potential inconveniences are real, but they don’t mean that you have to give up on sex. Let’s take a closer look at this topic in five points.
Dialogue. It’s true that your diabetes is your own business, but communication is vital if your partner is going to understand your needs. In bed as elsewhere, being critical is useless and only results in more stress, so make sure you create a positive atmosphere. Express yourself honestly, and always feel free to set your boundaries. Nothing kills the mood like feeling misunderstood.
Foresight. It helps to view sex as a form of physical activity: it can affect your blood sugar, and you certainly don’t want to experience a sudden drop in the heat of the moment. Get familiar with how your body reacts by measuring your blood sugar level before and after the act. If necessary, drink a sugary drink or take a snack to keep it at the right levels.
Prevention. Diabetes can cause various problems in men (impotence, erectile dysfunction) as in women (lack of lubrication, vaginal or urinary tract infections). Be aware that many disruptive elements such as tobacco, alcohol and high blood sugar do not mix well with sex. Adopt good habits, control your blood sugar, and the odds will be on your side.
Treatment. Don’t suffer from sexual disorders in silence. There’s nothing embarrassing about them, and they are absolutely treatable. In men, impotence and loss of libido due to a lack of testosterone, poor circulation or neuropathy—side effects of diabetes—usually disappear with medication. Women also have access to several solutions, medication-based or otherwise. In any case, it’s important to see a health care professional about it.
The insulin pump. The decision to remove it or not during sex depends on you and your state of health. Many prefer to disconnect it for fear of the tube catching on something or getting in their partner’s way, while others keep it at all times. This is up to you, but be advised: if you remove your pump, you might see your blood sugar level rise, and if you leave it on, you’ll need to treat sex as a form of exercise and beware of going hypo. Basically, you need to stay alert! Testing your blood sugar before and after sex will show you whether or how much your blood sugar has risen while disconnected.
Finally, keep in mind that diabetes does not dictate the terms of your sex life. Pay attention to how you’re feeling, watch for signs and above all, take care of yourself. The rest will come naturally.