Women’s Sexual Health and Diabetes
Diabetes can affect sexual functioning and fulfillment for both men and women. The good news is that sexual health is getting more attention, and there is more help available. If you are having any problems related to sexual issues and you want help, talk to your health care team. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your provider, perhaps you need to find a health care professional with whom you do feel comfortable discussing personal matters.
Your provider will evaluate your concerns and help you sort out the causes. There are many factors that can result in sexual difficulties, including medications, hormonal changes, problems caused by diabetes, and your emotional health. If your sexual problem appears to be due to a physical cause, you may be referred to a gynecologist or urologist. If stress or anxiety is contributing to your problem, a visit with a mental health professional may be in order. Depression, which is more common among people with diabetes, can also contribute to problems with sexual fulfillment and performance.
Diabetes and Sex
Many women with diabetes at one time or another experience some sexual difficulties. In fact, one study showed that 30 to 40 percent of women with diabetes reported that they have problems with sexual functioning, refrain from sexual relations, and are generally not satisfied with sex. But for women, long-term blood glucose levels and diabetes complications don’t appear to have a direct effect on sexual functioning.
For most women with diabetes, the problem is caused by lack of arousal. There is a very strong link between mind and body. If a woman does not feel in the mood for sex, then her body does not respond the way it needs to in order for her to enjoy it. If she is not emotionally ready or interested in sex, then she will be less likely to enjoy it physically.
Avoiding Lows after Sex
If you use insulin, you need to be watchful for low blood glucose during or after sex.
- Check your blood glucose first: This may slow you down a bit, but it’s better than having to deal with a low blood glucose later.
- Eat just before or right after active sex, just as you would if you were exercising.
- Consider having a snack before going to sleep for the night.
- If you use an insulin pump, you may want to disconnect it during lovemaking to avoid going low. The length of time you can safely keep the pump off without an injection depends on how active you are. Ask your health care team for advice about this.
This is probably true for all women, but there are certain reasons that it is especially true for women with diabetes.
Women’s sexual health can be affected by many issues:
- vaginal infections that affect how you feel physically and how sexy you feel
- bladder infections that can cause intercourse to be painful
- hormonal changes due to your menstrual cycle or menopause
- vaginal dryness
- lack of sexual desire
- fear of pregnancy
- depression and medications used to treat depression
Infections. Vaginal infections (yeast infections, vaginitis) are more common among women with diabetes. Blood glucose gives the bacteria an excellent medium to grow. These infections do not have anything to do with how clean you are, your age, or sexual activity. While vaginal infections do not directly affect your sexual health, they can affect how sexy and desirable you feel. You can buy over-the-counter antifungal products to treat these infections. If the infection does not clear up within a week, contact your health care provider for stronger medicine.
Women with diabetes are also at risk for bladder or urinary tract infections (UTIs) for the same reason. Signs of a bladder infection include feeling like you need to go to the bathroom more often, painful urination, painful intercourse, and blood in the urine. If you think that you have a bladder infection, call your health care provider right away. These infections usually respond quickly to antibiotics.
Some women find that cranberry juice helps to treat or prevent these infections. Cranberry juice contains sugar - 1/3 cup has about 15 grams of carbohydrate, equal to 1 carbohydrate serving. If you drink cranberry juice, even as a treatment for these infections, you will need to count it as part of your carbohydrate intake. Cranberry pills you can buy over the counter may be an alternative that will not affect your blood glucose levels.