Savefor later Page saved! You can go back to this later in your Diabetes and Me Close

Sex and diabetes

Sex can be an important part of some people’s lives, but it can be a subject many find awkward to talk about, especially if you’re experiencing problems during sex or sexual difficulties due to your diabetes.   

Having diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have problems with sex. And if you do, they might not last forever and there are things that can help. Sex can sometimes be a cause of worry or anxiety but you don’t have to suffer alone, it’s important to talk to someone if you’re experiencing problems.   

We’ve got lots of information about some of the things you may experience during sex due to your diabetes and ways to overcome those issues.   

Couple cuddling in bed

On this page we will cover:

Sexual problems  

Most people will have trouble with sex at some point in their lives, whether they have diabetes not. Having diabetes doesn’t mean you will have a problem.  But both men and women with diabetes are more likely to have sexual problems than people without diabetes. Sometimes, sexual problems can be a sign of another underlying health problem such as heart disease. If you’re concerned that there might be something else going on, speak to your GP or a sexual health clinic for more advice. More information can be found on our diabetes and sexual problems for men and diabetes and sexual problems for women pages. 

Lower sex drive or libido  

Lots of things can affect how interested you are in having sex. This is called libido or sex drive and sometimes diabetes can lower your libido. But it is not the only factor. Everyday things like work stress, anxiety, or even alcohol can affect it. If you’re struggling with sleep or are feeling lethargic you may not want to have sex. And other things like depression, certain medications, the menopause and sexual problems like erectile dysfunction and vaginal dryness can cause a lower sex drive too.   

Diabetes can be tiring and can affect your mental wellbeing. You may find that when you’re feeling low, your sex drive follows suit. There’s no such thing as ‘normal’ when it comes to how often you ‘should’ have sex, you’ll know what’s right for you and your partner. But if you’re finding that your sex drive is decreasing and you’re having less sex than you’re used to, then you might want to look at the reasons why and speak to a health professional if you’re concerned.   

The emotions you’re feeling have a big impact too. If you’re feeling embarrassed because of your pump or anxious about having a hypo, this can make you feel like you don’t want to have sex.  

Talking about sex

Sometimes sex can come with a lot of pressure. There can be pressure to perform well, to please your partner, to please yourself and you may feel frustrated if things aren’t going as planned. And if you’re struggling with your sex drive or complications from diabetes it can feel overwhelming.   

Sex can be fun and enjoyable, but it can sometimes be a vulnerable and an emotional experience too. And how we feel about ourselves physically and emotionally can impact our sex life. It’s good to talk to your partner about your feelings so you feel safe and comfortable being sexual with them. It’s important to listen to your partner and to listen to your own body when having sex.   

It’s important to always get consent when being sexual with someone. Consent means you have given permission or have received permission to engage in sexual activity with someone. An example of consent would be an enthusiastic ‘yes’ or ‘I love this’. But just because you or someone else has consented in the past, doesn’t mean it’s a ‘yes’ every time. Even during sex or foreplay, consent can be taken away at any time. And if you’re not comfortable with something then it’s ok to speak up, slow down or stop. You may want to communicate your boundaries with your partner before engaging in sexual activity so you’re both prepared for a pleasant experience. For more information on what consent means, visit the Let’s Talk About It website. 

It’s not easy coping with all these feelings and emotions. 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, counsellor or your healthcare team, it’s good to talk.   

Relationship support provider Relate have lots of resources on sexual relationships. They offer couples counselling and sex therapy and have advice on different sexualities like pansexuality or asexuality, visit their website for support and to see if there’s a centre near you. If you’re in Scotland, visit their sister organisation Relationships Scotland for support.    

Improving sexual relationships advice   

Dr Sharron Hinchliff looking at camera

We spoke to Dr Sharron Hinchliff, Professor of Psychology and Health at the University of Sheffield who has designed projects like ‘Age of Love Project’ and ‘Age, Sex and You’ about maintaining a healthy sex life and overcoming communication barriers.   

“Some people are not sexually active and they’re happy with that. They may still be intimate with a partner and enjoy that level of connection. However, a lack of interest in sex can be an issue in a relationship when sex is important, and when one partner wants sex but the other one doesn’t. Talking about it with the partner can help, especially as ignoring the issue can cause feelings of rejection. But it is not always easy to have that conversation.  

“Sexual problems can have an impact on psychological wellbeing and relationship satisfaction. We’ve found that when couples don’t communicate, the impact can be intensified because partners can feel unloved and sometimes disrespected. Communication can help to dispel these beliefs, offer reassurance, and help to adjust expectations because we are not left wondering what the other person is thinking. I think it’s important to remember there is diversity as some couples have sex once a week, some once a month, and the types of sexual activities vary as well.”  

“Sexual difficulties can leave people feeling frustrated. While there are different types of sexual difficulties, and health conditions can affect what people can and can’t do sex-wise, here are some tips for those who encounter a problem.   

  • Maintaining physical contact can be rewarding, so being intimate without holding any expectations as to where it will lead can be emotionally satisfying.
  • Sexual desire can be responsive. That means we can start to feel turned on during acts of intimacy that aren’t actually sexual, so during foreplay, cuddling, holding hands or just talking.
  • Some commonly prescribed medicines have side-effects that can cause a sexual issue. For example, some anti-depressants can reduce the ability to experience sexual pleasure and reach orgasm. It may be worth talking to your GP if you think your sex life has been affected by your medications. 
  • Vagina pH-friendly lubrication can help with penetrative sexual activity.  
  • Affection and respect are a huge turn on.  

“Sometimes specialist help is needed, so it could be that talking to a professional such as a sex and relationship therapist would help.”  

Blood sugar highs and lows  

Diabetes can impact many aspects of your life at any time including your sex life.  It’s important to remember that sex is a type of exercise and with exercise there’s the risk of your blood sugars dropping low and you having a hypoglycaemia (hypo). And if you've been drinking alcohol, you're more likely to have a hypo, depending on how much you've had and how long ago.    

It’s worth checking your blood sugars before sex and having something sugary nearby so you can treat a hypo if you need to. If you’ve had hypos during sex before you may feel anxious and worried beforehand. Some people with diabetes get very nervous about having hypos. We call this hypo anxiety and if this is familiar to you, it can affect how you feel about sex. It may be worth talking to your partner so they can support you and you can both prepare for a possible hypo.  

If you use technology to help manage your diabetes, like an insulin pump, you may find that it can get in the way during sex. It can feel frustrating not knowing whether to leave it on or take it off, to explain to a new partner what it is, or you may worry about accidentally pulling it out.   

It’s completely your decision whether you remove it or not. Taking your pump off may mean you’re less likely to have a hypo. Leaving your pump on means your sugars aren’t going to get too high, but they also may drop too low. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but talking to your healthcare team about concerns like these may ease your worries.   

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.


Most women with diabetes have a healthy baby but it’s important to plan ahead and get support from your healthcare team to avoid any potential complications. Having diabetes means you and your baby are more at risk of health complications during pregnancy and childbirth. By planning ahead and getting support from your GP and diabetes team, you can reduce the risks involved. As soon as you start thinking about having a baby, it’s important to make an appointment with your GP or nurse. They can give you advice and refer you to pre-conception clinic.   

Your HbA1c will need to be checked before you stop contraception as a high HbA1c level can affect how a baby develops. You’ll also need to check your blood sugar levels more regularly at home and review what medications you’re taking as some diabetes medications aren’t safe when you’re planning a pregnancy. Having diabetes shouldn’t affect your fertility so if you’ve been trying to get you or your partner pregnant and haven’t been able to then it might be a good idea to visit your GP for advice. They may refer you for tests. Visit our pregnancy and diabetes page for more information.   

Sex as you age  

There’s often a misconception that your sex life slows down the older you get but that’s not necessarily the case. Many older adults still have an exciting and fulfilled sex life.   

Our bodies change as we grow older which may bring more challenges to work with or overcome but there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy sex regardless of your age. According to research done by the University of Sheffield, ‘hormonal changes due to menopause can mean the vagina can take longer to lubricate and vaginal tissues become thinner. This can make penetrative sexual activity painful and can affect your sexual desire, orgasms can be less intense or take longer to reach.’ Things like lubrications can also help with vaginal dryness, you can buy them from your pharmacy, local supermarket or online.  

There are medications to help treat vaginal dryness and irritation - and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help relieve some of these symptoms. It’s not just the physical effects of menopause that can impact your sex drive. Things like lack of sleep, hot flashes and brain fog can be stressful and you may find sex is the last thing on your mind. Talk to your healthcare professional about what treatments can help you and visit our diabetes and sexual problems in women page for more information.   

For men, the University of Sheffield says ‘you may find you can’t get or erection or maintain one for very long. There may be a reduction in semen at ejaculation and the chances of experiencing non-ejaculatory orgasms, also known as dry orgasms, increases with age.’ Occasional erectile dysfunction is normal but if it occurs often then it may be time to seek help from your doctor. There are medications that can help with erectile dysfunction, but talk to your healthcare professional before going on new medications to make sure it’s suitable for you. Visit the diabetes and sexual problems in men page for more information.    

Get more support with sex and diabetes

You’re not alone. If you're worried or need advice or someone to listen, we’re here to support you. You can call our helpline on 0345 123 2399 and talk to experts in diabetes. Or join our online forum so you can chat to other people who might be having similar sexual problems as you.  

Organisations like Relate or Brook specialise in sexual problems. Consider contacting them for support if you think it might help.  

The LGBTQ Foundation has lots of resources to help everyone who is LGBTQ navigate any worries or concerns they have, visit their website to find information on sexual health and much more.   

Remember, 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 as part of your diabetes care and it’s free. Download our free What care to expect if you have diabetes guide for more information.   

Next Review Date
Content last reviewed
07 February 2024
Next review due
07 February 2027
Back to Top
Brand Icons/Telephonecheck - FontAwesomeicons/tickicons/uk