When you think about enjoying life and all its pleasures, great sex may be one of the first things to pop into your mind. The good news is that there’s no reason you can’t have a full and satisfying sex life if you have diabetes. But you need to understand how your disease can affect different aspects of your sexuality and sexual function.
First, bear in mind that sexual intimacy can be physically vigorous, burning calories. That means that, like exercise, it may put you at risk of hypoglycemia — inconvenient when making love, to say the least. To keep blood sugar stable, it’s wise to take glucose readings before and after sex to get an idea of how your body responds. Try having a sugary drink or a small snack beforehand or, with your doctor’s approval, adjusting your insulin if you know that sexual intimacy is in the offing.
For Women Only
Sexuality is complex in women even without interference from chronic disease, so it’s no surprise that they generally experience more sexual side effects related to diabetes than men. But the problems are not insurmountable. Among them:
- Blood-sugar fluxes. Though it’s not a universal experience, many women notice their blood sugar rises a few days before their monthly period begins. Researchers suspect (though not all agree) that fluxes in female sex hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, temporarily make cells more resistant to insulin. If you suspect this is a problem for you:
- For several months, keep a log of when your period begins, then compare it to your daily blood-sugar records. If you find a distinct correlation between your glucose levels and your menstrual cycle, talk to your doctor about adjusting your insulin or doses of medication.
- Consider an alternative cause. Some doctors think the real reason blood sugar rises before your period is that the cravings and irritability of premenstrual syndrome make you eat more—or more erratically—thereby causing unusual peaks and valleys in blood-sugar levels. Try eating at regular intervals to keep blood sugar stable, and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can affect mood.
- If you take oral contraceptives, ask your doctor which pill is best for you. Monophasic oral contraceptives (such as Alesse, Loestrin, and Ortho-Cept), which contain fixed amounts of estrogen and progestin, appear to keep blood-sugar levels more stable than triphasic (such as Triphasil and OrthoTricyclen) and progesterone-only contraceptives (such as Micronor and injected Depo-Provera).