Sex and Diabetes


By: dhtest

Dear Aisha and David – I am a 22-year-old woman with type 1, on a pump.  I’ve only had one real boyfriend, and we broke up two months ago.  He said that my diabetes didn’t have anything to do with it, but I’m not sure. I think that the lows scared him. Sex with him was good, but I don’t have much to compare it with.  

I guess I am nervous about dating.  I don’t know how to bring up the subject of diabetes, and I’m afraid that my pump will scare guys away.  I thought about looking for guys with diabetes, but only one or two seem to come to my pump group.  What should I do?

Looking For Love

Dear LFL,

There is no doubt that you will be able to find a good man.  Although some guys may be put off by diabetes, many others will find it no problem at all.

In addition to looking within your support group, you might find men with diabetes through your endo’s office, with a personal ad, on a social networking site like tudiabetes, or just by passing the word. The good thing about a partner with diabetes is that he will understand what you are going through and know how to help. The rough thing is that he may have too many of his own problems to be supportive of yours.  You will have to decide on an individual basis whether it would work. Readers, what have been your experiences with this?

You also might want to consider the genetic risk of having children with a man who also has type 1 diabetes. When only one parent has the disease, the risk of passing it on to a child is about two to five percent. The risk of passing on the disease when both parents have type 1, however, hasn’t been well assessed. “Experts” have estimated that the probability ranges from 10 to 15 percent all the way to 30 to 50 percent. But those numbers seem to be educated guesses. There probably aren’t enough kids in that situation to know for sure. 

In any case, there’s no need to limit your selection to men with diabetes. When dating people who are ignorant of diabetes, when and how to tell them about it is always an important decision. There’s no sense in waiting too long: Why waste your time with someone who’s going to run off?  But we think that telling a man on the first date may be too soon.  You want to give him time to find out how wonderful you are first. So the second or third date is good.  Of course, that means no sex on the first date, which is probably a good thing.

How to tell your prospective partner about your diabetes is another good question. There was a helpful discussion of this on DiabetesMine a couple of years ago. A woman named Kelsey wrote, “I think people will be comfortable with learning about the disease if the person with diabetes displays confidence in talking about it.”  Anne wrote, “I usually mention it the first or second date in a matter-of-fact way. If it’s going to scare someone off, fine… I’ll find someone else!”

So, be matter-of-fact and confident. Remember, most guys don’t want to know all about diabetes. What they really want to know is how it will affect them. Ask them what they want to know. Answer all their questions honestly, and if you don’t know the answers, you can find out or refer them to an online resource.

Some people report that one thing that can push potential partners away is dealing with lows. We would be interested in hearing what other readers think about this issue.  Is it worth running a little higher glucose on the first couple of dates to avoid the risk of running low with a new romantic interest?  It might also be good if the first date were something other than a big dinner, when you have to be thinking about boluses, carbs, and checking sugars. Maybe do something active like a hike or a museum trip, where you’ll get a chance to talk. If you do need to check your glucose, you might also your date whether he would prefer to watch you do it or would rather take a short walk instead. 

Potential partners will be interested in any sexual effects of diabetes.  You could tell them you’ll show them when the time is right, or you could just tell them the truth, that you have experienced no sexual effects.

Should you keep your pump on during sex? Here’s what Janis Roszler and Donna Rice, authors of Sex and Diabetes, have to say about it: “Some people find that removing the pump frees them to respond more enthusiastically during [sex]. A pump can be safely removed for about 45 minutes to an hour. Others leave the pump on and just move it out of the way. If you remove your pump, check your blood glucose level when you reconnect the pump and take a correction dose as needed. If a pump is accidentally pulled out during sexual activity, it isn’t harmful, even if some blood appears at the infusion site.”

Remember that 80 percent of finding a partner is making yourself available. Have confidence, and good luck!

Viagra Alert

A diabetes educator named Lynn called us about a young man with type 1 who wound up in the ER with near-fatal low blood pressure after taking 14 Viagras.  He was later found to have almost no testosterone in his blood. Lynn asked us to pass on the information that all the Viagra in the world will not get a man hard if his testosterone is too low.  So before starting on medications, men with erection problems should always insist on a testosterone check.  There are many prescription testosterone supplements, and they are very safe.



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