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Love is in the air

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Great sex, anecdotally, is uninhibited and free of worry. It’s a time to put aside the usual responsibilities that plague you and just enjoy the moment. But diabetes and sex have a slightly complicated relationship. For people with type 1 diabetes, fully detaching from responsibilities isn’t an option – in fact, it can be dangerous. It’s no surprise then that a study conducted by Oxford University professors found that 62 percent of people with diabetes say their condition has negatively impacted their relationships with their partners.

Having to think about your type 1 diabetes during intimacy can be agitating – and even disheartening. But it’s important to remember that many adults have to do some planning before sex. Some men have to take pills for erectile dysfunction. Tons of women need lubricant due to a hormonal imbalance. And let’s not forget about all of the people who need a lumbar support pillow for missionary. Everyone deserves to enjoy sex. Here’s what you need to know about having safe and enjoyable sex, when you have type 1 diabetes.


The Risks Of Sex + Type 1 Diabetes

Blood glucose test using smart devices.

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There are several reasons that those with type 1 diabetes can’t explore the Kama Sutra without some planning. First off, a lot of sex – depending on how you go about it – counts as a workout. It gets your blood pumping, it gets you sweating and, like any exercise, it impacts blood sugar levels. While people who don’t have diabetes can handle these blood sugar fluctuations fairly well, people with diabetes need to be careful.

Next, there’s the added factor of booze. It’s common for people to enjoy a drink (or a few) before having sex. Alcohol helps loosen those inhibitions and make you feel relaxed. But, if you drink too much or don’t stick to diabetic-friendly cocktails, your blood sugar levels can go on a roller coaster.

The ways sex plays on blood sugar levels don’t stop there. Even if you stay sober for sex, the mere excitement of being with a partner can impact blood sugar levels. So, while it’s frustrating, the fact that sex affects blood sugar levels cannot be ignored.


Do Some Planning

African-American couple jogging on city street

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If you know that your night will likely end in sex, take steps to put your blood sugar levels in a healthy range by the time intimacy occurs. This means being careful about what you eat, using insulin when necessary and even monitoring other physical activity throughout the day. If your sessions in the sack are particularly active, then you might need to skip your afternoon workout. You don’t want to put yourself at risk of low blood sugar mid-coitus due to over-exertion.


Keep Snacks Nearby

Chocolate Dipped White Strawberries

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Even if you eat right and monitor your blood sugar levels, things can still go awry after a few rounds with your partner. Be sure to keep snacks on the nightstand so you can reach for them if you feel your blood sugar levels dropping. Better yet, incorporate sexy foods like strawberries or chocolate sauce (sugar-free if necessary) into sex so it doesn’t feel like snack time is putting a pause on the fun.


Be Open With Your Partner

Young couple in romantic mood on bed

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Sex is always better when you can communicate with your partner. That is true about every topic, from what positions work for you to managing your blood sugar levels. Notify your partner in advance that sex can impact your blood sugar, and that you might need to pause during the activities to have a snack or take insulin. Additionally, if you can tell tonight is just not a good night to do the deed, speak up. Pushing yourself through sex when your blood sugar levels are off can be dangerous.


Diabetes Devices And Sex

Blood glucose test using smart devices.

Source: Andriy Onufriyenko / Getty

If you wear an insulin pump or a blood glucose monitor, you might be tempted to remove this during sex. Some diabetics struggle to feel sexy when wearing these devices (and nothing else) in front of a partner. First off, there’s no shame in wearing a device that keeps you alive and enables you to live the way that you enjoy. However, there are some practicalities to consider, like the fact that these devices can get tangled or fall off during sex.

If you want to remove your device during sex, make sure to get your blood sugar levels in a healthy range right before the activities. And then put the device back on immediately after sex. If your blood sugar levels aren’t stable enough for device removal, get creative and choose positions that let you keep the device on. Again, communication is key here.


Type 1 Diabetes + Sexual Dysfunction

A young couple relaxing in bed

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It is important to know that type 1 diabetes can impact sexual function in many ways. For women, high blood sugar can lead to vaginal dryness, according to the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine. For men, blood sugar issues can cause erectile dysfunction. And people of all genders can experience mood swings and a low libido in connection to type 1 diabetes.

While there are practical fixes for vaginal dryness – like finding a lubricant you love – the other symptoms can be more complicated to treat. If you are struggling with any of these issues, first off, know that it’s common for people with type 1 diabetes and is nothing to be embarrassed about. Then talk to your doctor about the best way to treat the problem.

Having type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to mean the end of a fun, playful and even erotic sex life. It simply means you have to do a little extra planning. But when you have a partner with whom you can communicate openly, that planning won’t feel like a burden. And when you know your body will be safe and taken care of, then you can let go and be in the moment.

RELATED CONTENT: 7 Things Doctors Wish Black Women Knew About Diabetes

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