Simplifying Sex & T1D
Sex is anything but simple.
Especially when you have type 1 diabetes.
In fact, it can sometimes feel as though there is someone else there between you and your partner. Like shared headspace: your partner is thinking “let’s get it on” but you may be more “what could go wrong?”
Discussing any potential hurdles can set the tone and ease the mood. If we can prepare ourselves and our partners for what may happen, it can make those events less shocking and more manageable when they occur.
You may even be able to see humor in it.
Sexual encounters look different for everyone. It is important to explore your own path and dump those storybook/movie depictions of sex in the bin. Not just because they are unrealistic, but to better your own sexual enjoyment.
It is also important to remember there are diverse ways to connect sexually and sensually with yourself and/or your partner.
BGs & the Birds and the Bees
Diabetes can sometimes be an unwelcomed bystander during sex.
That became alarmingly clear to me once I started wearing a continuous glucose monitor. While it is great to know where I am and where I am going glucose level-wise, a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) sounding off is definitely coitus interruptus.
Sexual encounters often involve movement and movement can cause fluctuations in our blood glucose levels. This can be further complicated by the very nature of sex as it can vary in duration and intensity. And that can make it difficult to be prepared and stay in range.
Low glucose events can find you prematurely sweaty and in desperate need of glucose tabs or that juice box on the nightstand. It is always best to treat the low. Do not ignore it.
There have been countless times over the years where I have whispered to my husband, I’m sweating more than I should be, let me check my sugars. Only to discover I am low and need to pause to scarf down glucose tabs or have a juice box.
Then comes the need to recover afterwards.
A bad low during sex could potentially derail the encounter entirely, so it is best to be prepared.
The Omnipod DASH® System allows Temp Basal Presets and I have one specifically for those intimate moments. It has taken years and some crafty calculations to reach this point, but my “Sexy Time” Temp Basal program helps me to be as prepared as possible and limit those interruptions.
A sexual encounter can also evoke emotions and stress which can cause our blood glucose levels to rise. Those high glucose levels can then lead to thirst and an increased need to urinate...and potentially ruin the mood.
Taking stock of your T1D before sex may feel completely unsexy but open communication with your partner and repetition can help normalize that mid-sexy session glance at your blood sugar levels.
If you need to pause for a snack, invite your partner to nibble alongside you.
Feeling Sexy: Body Image & T1D
Most people feel better about themselves with their clothes on and this is the absolute truth in my case.
It is common for those with chronic illnesses, like type 1 diabetes, to face greater personal criticism. Not just regarding the devices we may wear, but all those bumps, bruises, and scars that come along with those devices and injections – even if you rotate sites habitually.
Wearing an insulin pump and/or CGM may make you feel encumbered or self-conscious.
It may be shocking to a partner who is unfamiliar with devices when they suddenly appear on your body. I remember thinking about the presence of those devices and what my husband would think when I first started wearing both, after two decades of finger pokes and multiple daily injections.
So, we talked about it.
He assured me that me being alive and healthy was sexy. And then blushed, and cheekily followed it with, during sex I am hardly going to be paying your devices any attention!
On a more practical note, it was a factor when considering an insulin pump. The tubeless freedom of the Omnipod DASH System would allow me to remain attached to my insulin pump during sex and linger in the afterglow, without the worry of remembering to reconnect.
What you use or wear to manage your diabetes is a personal choice. And so is whether or not to remain attached to those devices during sex.
It is important to establish your comfort level so can enjoy yourself. And remember, that level of comfort looks different for everyone.
Sex and type 1 diabetes means there will be a hurdle now and then. No matter how much you prepare, those hurdles will arise during sex as they do during life.
And when they do, I have found, the best thing we can do is find the levity in the situation.
Like the time, I was not the one screaming in bed.
It was my Pod.
In an unrealized feat of wonder, my insulin pump site was bumped causing it to alarm. It was during my first few months on the Omnipod DASH System and while I had heard of “screamers” I had yet to encounter one myself. So, when it happened neither myself nor my husband realized what the high pitch *beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep* sound was, so we quickly dressed then ran around the house checking all our smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Years later we still joke about our night of technical difficulties.
And we laugh about the fact that instead of lit candles, our room is intimately illuminated by the glow of various diabetes devices.
We jest that my bedside table’s idea of romance is to be covered by scattered glucose tablets instead of rose petals.
My husband still laughs when I bring a jug of maple syrup to bed with me for potential “Sexy Time” lows.
And I always giggle, when my husband asks me if I have remembered to bring Otis to bed (Otis is the name of my Omnipod DASH PDM)!
Finding the humour in it all has played an integral part in normalizing those moments for us. It has certainly helped me feel more comfortable (and a lot less guilty) when those hurdles pop up in the middle of a sexual encounter.
Communication Before Copulation
Ultimately, the key to intimacy is communication. And that should not be limited to what you do or do not like to do in the bedroom. An open conversation about your diabetes and the potential interruptions can set the tone and ease the mood.
Sex should be enjoyed. So let go of the idea that your diabetes devices are not sexy. YOU are sexy and those devices help make you the healthiest version of you.
Let go of all those preconceived notions of what sex “should” look like and focus on what sex looks like for you and/or your partner.