Problems With Libido and Orgasm
Difficulties with sexual arousal -- whether from loss of interest in sex or problems having orgasms -- are more common, and can be more complicated for women with diabetes.
Poor blood sugar control can drag down a woman's libido. So can depression, which is more common in women than in men. Some antidepressants may also dampen sex drive.
If you've been depressed or anxious for more than a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor. Counseling, medication, or stress reduction can help. If you are already taking a depression medication and think it may be lowering your interest in sex, talk to your doctor about finding one that is less likely to cause sexual side effects.
Some women with diabetes may need more time and stimulation to climax. Whether the cause is nerve damage or emotional issues, problems with sexual arousal are a good reason to make foreplay part of your sexual experience, if it isn't already.
Oral stimulation, sex toys, caressing, and cuddling can help arouse women and men, especially as they age. "Self-stimulation, or masturbation, can also help a woman get to know her body better," Roszler says.
If you are unable to climax because of significant nerve damage, counseling can help you learn to make sex an enjoyable experience without orgasm.
4 Tips for Better Sex
Along with strategies for specific sexual issues, these tips can help keep your sex life strong with diabetes:
- Limit alcohol. A little alcohol may increase sexual desire, but drinking can also make your blood sugar level drop quickly. If you drink alcohol, stick with one drink. Have it with a meal or snack to limit its effects on blood sugar.
- Be honest with your partner. Trying to deny or hide your diabetes only makes you more uncomfortable during sex, Sparling says. When she was dating, she made a point of getting to know boyfriends well before she got intimate with them, and they got to know her -- and her pump. "I never had a partner reject me because of diabetes," she says. "If anything, it brought us closer together."
- Nurture your relationship. Little things like taking walks, working out together, or even doing chores for each other are important to keeping a couple's romantic life fresh and loving, Roszler says. Conversely, neglecting your love life may damage other aspects of your relationship. "When couples have difficulty in the bedroom, it spreads throughout their relationship," she says. "If you're angry with your partner, you're less likely to do things to take care of him or her."
- Get help. If you are uncomfortable talking to your doctor about sex, ask for a referral to a gynecologist or other doctor with expertise in sexual issues. "If you don't get the answers or help you need, don't give up," Roszler says. "You can have a great sex life with diabetes."