Sex and Diabetes

Looking for Love

| Oct 2, 2009

Dear Aisha and David - I am a 22-year-old woman with type 1, on a pump.  I've only had one real boyfriend, and we broke up two months ago.  He said that my diabetes didn't have anything to do with it, but I'm not sure. I think that the lows scared him. Sex with him was good, but I don't have much to compare it with.  

I guess I am nervous about dating.  I don't know how to bring up the subject of diabetes, and I'm afraid that my pump will scare guys away.  I thought about looking for guys with diabetes, but only one or two seem to come to my pump group.  What should I do?

Looking For Love

Dear LFL,

There is no doubt that you will be able to find a good man.  Although some guys may be put off by diabetes, many others will find it no problem at all.

In addition to looking within your support group, you might find men with diabetes through your endo's office, with a personal ad, on a social networking site like tudiabetes, or just by passing the word. The good thing about a partner with diabetes is that he will understand what you are going through and know how to help. The rough thing is that he may have too many of his own problems to be supportive of yours.  You will have to decide on an individual basis whether it would work. Readers, what have been your experiences with this?

You also might want to consider the genetic risk of having children with a man who also has type 1 diabetes. When only one parent has the disease, the risk of passing it on to a child is about two to five percent. The risk of passing on the disease when both parents have type 1, however, hasn't been well assessed. "Experts" have estimated that the probability ranges from 10 to 15 percent all the way to 30 to 50 percent. But those numbers seem to be educated guesses. There probably aren't enough kids in that situation to know for sure. 

In any case, there's no need to limit your selection to men with diabetes. When dating people who are ignorant of diabetes, when and how to tell them about it is always an important decision. There's no sense in waiting too long: Why waste your time with someone who's going to run off?  But we think that telling a man on the first date may be too soon.  You want to give him time to find out how wonderful you are first. So the second or third date is good.  Of course, that means no sex on the first date, which is probably a good thing.

How to tell your prospective partner about your diabetes is another good question. There was a helpful discussion of this on DiabetesMine a couple of years ago. A woman named Kelsey wrote, "I think people will be comfortable with learning about the disease if the person with diabetes displays confidence in talking about it."  Anne wrote, "I usually mention it the first or second date in a matter-of-fact way. If it's going to scare someone off, fine... I'll find someone else!"

So, be matter-of-fact and confident. Remember, most guys don't want to know all about diabetes. What they really want to know is how it will affect them. Ask them what they want to know. Answer all their questions honestly, and if you don't know the answers, you can find out or refer them to an online resource.

Some people report that one thing that can push potential partners away is dealing with lows. We would be interested in hearing what other readers think about this issue.  Is it worth running a little higher glucose on the first couple of dates to avoid the risk of running low with a new romantic interest?  It might also be good if the first date were something other than a big dinner, when you have to be thinking about boluses, carbs, and checking sugars. Maybe do something active like a hike or a museum trip, where you'll get a chance to talk. If you do need to check your glucose, you might also your date whether he would prefer to watch you do it or would rather take a short walk instead. 

Potential partners will be interested in any sexual effects of diabetes.  You could tell them you'll show them when the time is right, or you could just tell them the truth, that you have experienced no sexual effects.

Should you keep your pump on during sex? Here's what Janis Roszler and Donna Rice, authors of Sex and Diabetes, have to say about it: "Some people find that removing the pump frees them to respond more enthusiastically during [sex]. A pump can be safely removed for about 45 minutes to an hour. Others leave the pump on and just move it out of the way. If you remove your pump, check your blood glucose level when you reconnect the pump and take a correction dose as needed. If a pump is accidentally pulled out during sexual activity, it isn't harmful, even if some blood appears at the infusion site."

Remember that 80 percent of finding a partner is making yourself available. Have confidence, and good luck!

Viagra Alert

A diabetes educator named Lynn called us about a young man with type 1 who wound up in the ER with near-fatal low blood pressure after taking 14 Viagras.  He was later found to have almost no testosterone in his blood. Lynn asked us to pass on the information that all the Viagra in the world will not get a man hard if his testosterone is too low.  So before starting on medications, men with erection problems should always insist on a testosterone check.  There are many prescription testosterone supplements, and they are very safe.

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Categories: Blood Glucose, Columns, Diabetes, Diabetes, Food, Love and Diabetes, Low Blood Sugar, Sexual Issues, Type 1 Issues, Type 2 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 3 October 2009

I would imagine it would be hard for someone to learn about diabetes in a dating scene as well as those who are diabetes to feel comfortable explaining the disease and particularly lows.

I would say be yourself and the right person will come along. It happened to me 33 years ago when I became a type 1 at age 17 and dating my boyfriend (in h.s.) for 6 months. We're still together 28 years and 2 children later. He's gone thru hell and back with me and never waivered. There are people that prove themselves and love you unconditionally. For those that don't stick around, aidos. Who needs the extra stress. It takes a special person to stand by your side esp. in those hypo situations. I would not pump high in the first dates cuz stress may lower the sugars anyhow. Test in private initially. It isn't easy but can be accomplished. By the way, after 33 years as a type 1 I have no complications, have kept in shape and feel terrific. Teamwork!

Posted by shosty on 4 October 2009

Having diabetes or some other health problem is a good way of filtering friends and romantic interests. If for some reason, someone is put off, then that is a person I would not want to be involved with, whether or not I was the one with diabetes.

A hike is a terrible idea for a first date. Figuring out carbs and insulin for a hike can take some attention, and lows are more likely with exercise.

Being matter of fact works best. But you can only be matter of fact in a genuine way, if that is how you are about your own diabetes. No matter how much you try, if you are embarrassed by your diabetes, it will come through.

I cannot imagine asking someone if they want to watch or not, when a blood test is done. Part of beng matter of fact is just taking the meter out and doing it in the middle of a conversation. In fact, that is one of the best ways to introduce the topic of diabetes, tell the person you have it, and demonstrate that calm matter-of-fact acceptance that makes it okay for the other person.

Posted by Anonymous on 4 October 2009

Shosty, You've obviously got it all together. Excellent advice.

Posted by Anonymous on 4 October 2009

I am a type 2 diabetic on insulin with a shy 21-year old son who is a bit on the heavy side. I am concerned about his risk of developing type 2 diabetes and suggested that he consider dating a type 1 and follow a similar diet and exercise plan to prevent getting what I have. He has seen my have lows, so any hypo episosdes wouldn't phase him and he already knows what to do. Alao, the genetic risk with two type 1s isn't there. Diabetic Mom

Posted by Anonymous on 5 October 2009

If he is turned off by your diabetes, then he's not worth it. There are LOT'S of guys that would not be put off by diabetes. You'll just need to be patient and keep looking.

Posted by David Spero RN on 8 October 2009

Thanks for all this great advice. Shosty, we appreciate your correcting us on the hiking thing.

Posted by Anonymous on 16 October 2009

I got married just over a year ago(!) and my husband's mother has Type 2 (I'm Type 1), so it didn't faze him in the least when I told him about my diabetes. I've never made a big deal out of telling my date about my diabetes - in fact, usually if we were going out to dinner on the first date, I would pull out my testing supplies and tell them I had to check my blood sugar because I'm diabetic, and that was that. Depending on how comfortable they were with things, I would test discretely at (under) the table, or go to the ladies' room - I never came back to find that my date had walked out:)! I started using an insulin pump about 15 years ago. I usually wear it on my waistband, or somewhere where it is visible, which opened up the opportunity to let someone know about my diabetes as well.

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