Sex is important and part of some people's relationships, and this isn't any different if you have diabetes.
It’s important to know that having diabetes doesn’t automatically mean you’ll have problems with sex. And if you do, it’s not necessarily going to last forever, there are things that can help.
We’ve put together some pointers about the main things that people with diabetes worry about when it comes to sex, and asked other people to share their experiences and advice too.
Blood sugar highs and lows
Going high or low during or after sex?
It's important to remember that sex is exercise, so it might make your sugars drop. If you’ve been drinking, depending on when and how much, you’re more likely to have a hypo.
But not everyone with diabetes will have hypos. Make sure you check them before you have sex, and it's worth have something sugary nearby just in case, so you can treat a hypo if you need to.
If you use an insulin pump, taking it out before sex might help you to avoid having a hypo. But this doesn’t work for everyone.
Some people with diabetes get very nervous about having hypos. This is called hypo anxiety and if this is familiar to you, and it can affect how you feel about sex. Read our information on hypo anxiety and get advice on what can help.
Most people will have trouble with sex at some point in their lives, whether they have diabetes or not. Having diabetes doesn’t mean you will automatically have a problem.
Both men and women with diabetes are more likely to have sexual problems than people without diabetes.
It is important to know that if you high blood sugar levels for a long time that it can cause sexual problems. These problems are often referred to as sexual dysfunction.
High blood sugar levels can affect your nerves and blood vessels. This means that they can also affect the ones that supply your sexual organs. If this happens, it means that you'll have less blood flow into these areas which can result in your losing some sensation.Losing sensation can mean that becoming aroused, both physically and emotionally, can be harder.
Having diabetes can also mean you’re more at risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and thrush.
Sexual problems won’t affect everyone with diabetes, but you should know how to reduce your risk of developing these kinds of problems and how to manage them.
Your feelings about sex
Lots of things can affect our desire to have sex, this is what some people call having a low libido or sex drive. But this isn't necessarily all down to your diabetes.
Being tired, depressed or and having low self-esteem can all play a part. As well as any medication you’re taking, or any treatment you’ve had in the past.
The emotions you’re feeling have a big impact too. If you’re feeling embarrassed because of your pump or because you’re having some other issues, this can be difficult and make you feel like you don’t want to have sex.
It’s not easy coping with all these feelings. But there’s support out there and talking to someone about what’s going on can be the first step. Know that you’re not alone. Whether it’s with a partner, friend or your healthcare team, it’s good to talk.
Sex and relationships
If you’re in a relationship, diabetes can sometimes put a strain on it. From looking out for signs of a hypo to problems in sexual function, there’s more to think about and plan for.
Communication is important in any relationship, and having diabetes doesn’t change this. Talking over any issues and trying to resolve them together can help.
Remember that you’re in it together. But if you’re not sure where to begin, there are relationship counselors at Relate that can help you. Or give us a call because our helpline has people with counselling skills who are here to listen and help.
If you’re single, you might not want to talk to your sexual partner about your diabetes at all. Do what’s best for you and your diabetes.
If you use an insulin pump, you might have all kinds of questions about how it might affect your sex life. You might be worried that it will get in the way or be pulled out accidentally?
Or how do you explain what it is to a new partner? Take it off or leave it on? Put on a temporary basal, which reduces the amount of insulin that’s being delivered?
There’s no right answer here, it’s whatever works for you. Jen chats to us about her experiences of having sex with a pump, and what works for her.
Taking your pump off will mean it doesn’t get in the way and you’re less likely to have a hypo. But remember to put it back on again.
Leaving it on means your sugars aren’t going to get too high, but on the other hand, they might drop too low.
We know diabetes can be a balancing act so try things out and see what works for you. If you’re worried or need more advice, give us a call on our helpline or speak to your healthcare team.
Get more support
You’re not alone. If you're worried or need advice or someone to listen, we’re here to support you and you can talk to people with counselling skills who are experts in diabetes.
Or join our online forum so you can chat to other people who might be having similar sexual problems as you.
Getting time and support with any sexual problems is one of your essential diabetes checks this means you have a right to this kind of service and it’s free.