Of all the challenges that having type 1 and type 2 diabetes presents, sexual problems are among the most common, with 50-70 per cent of men experiencing impotence, and up to 81 per cent of women reporting at least one sexual concern. But while these figures are staggeringly high, problems are often downplayed out of embarrassment.
Stop diabetes from hijacking your sex life by giving these expert-approved solutions a try:
Talk about it
Firstly, let’s just say that it is normal and completely understandable to be upset, frustrated or embarrassed when you feel unfulfilled in your sex life. But just as you would seek support for other diabetes-related health issues, it’s important to discuss sexual problems too.
1. Speak to your care team: They will explain how diabetes can impact on your sex life. (For example, nerve damage, hormone changes, fluctuating blood glucose levels and reduced blood flow to the genitals can all impact on sexual function and enjoyment.) They can also give you tips on dealing with the emotional fallout when things don’t go as planned in the bedroom.
2. Keep your partner in the loop: This is key to improving your sex life – and to maintaining a healthy relationship in general. Try bringing your loved one along to your sessions with your care team. That way, they can find out how diabetes affects arousal and orgasm, and discuss their own fears and concerns when it comes to sex.
3. Be patient, be kind: After all, if one partner is unhappy, the other probably is as well. Being affectionate and attentive towards each other ensures you stay connected.
Manage diabetes in the bedroom
Picture this – just when things are getting steamy between the sheets, your pump cord gets tangled on your partner’s watch or you feel the onset of a hypo. Sound familiar? You could try…
1. Maintaining the mood: Don’t get angry when diabetes rears its head in bed. Instead, make a joke of the mishap. Or ask your partner to kiss your neck while you fix the problem. The less fuss, the easier it will be to resume where you left off.
2. Taking it off: Some people find it best to remove their pump before sex, just like they do before swimming. Just remember to reattach everything afterwards, so you can enjoy cuddling up and dropping off to sleep together. Speak with your doctor to figure out what will work best for you.
3. Protecting against hypos: Prepare for sex like you would an exercise session. Adjust your insulin delivery or eat carbs beforehand to ensure your blood glucose levels don’t drop too low. If you’re still worried about a hypo, keep jelly beans or juice nearby.
Move a little more
In addition to helping you maintain a healthy body weight (something that can improve sexual function), exercising more can a hugely positive impact on your sex life. For women, exercise enhances blood flow, sensitivity and sensation in the vulval area, and encourages a more intense orgasm. For men, exercise may benefit blood flow to the genitals enhancing the ability to achieve an erection. Research also suggests your body image can improve after just six exercise sessions, which can help with arousal. Win-win-win!
Get the most out of exercise by aiming for 30 minutes each day. Working your pelvic floor can also improve sexual function, so try doing regular exercises. Squeeze your pelvic floor for 5-10 seconds, with a break of 10 seconds in between, and repeat 10 times.
Do as much incidental exercise as you can, too. Try gardening, getting off the bus one stop earlier, or just bringing in your shopping bags.