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Sex - with a Side of Diabetes.

(Cue sleezy saxaphone music, dimmed lights, and the extremely uncomfortable mental image of my mother reading this post.)

Even though I've been thinking about writing this post for a few weeks now, I can't keep the blush from creeping up my face.  But I'm a twenty something, engaged woman, for crying out loud.  There is a sexual element to my relationship.  There is also a diabetes element to my sex.

I can't compare sex with diabetes to sex Sex and Diabeteswithout diabetes.  On the cusp of my twenty-first year with type 1, there's not much of my life that I've lived without diabetes.  Sex and intimacy dredges up a whole host of issues, diabetes notwithstanding.  Is my body appealing?  Am I feeling pretty?  Do I think my arms /ass /ears look fat in this shirt /skirt / hat?  Will the cat just freaking stop pawing at our ankles?

Now add diabetes to the mix.  Is my blood sugar at a stable level?  Is there juice within reaching distance, in case of a low?  Where is my pump infusion set these days?  Can I disconnect easily or do I have to go foraging around for it?  Whoops, watch those underwear on that infusion set ... don’t want to tear it out by accident.  Are the blinds closed?  (Okay, so the last bit has nothing to do with diabetes, but it’s crucial to make sure the blinds are drawn.)

Wearing an insulin pump adds a whole new level to sexual relationships.  It’s a machine.  And yes, being healthy is sexy and there’s nothing sexier than someone who is taking care of themselves, but once you have adjusted to that comfort level, it’s still a machine.  And it’s attached to you at all times, even when you’re feeling amorous.  I’ve received a number of emails about sex and an insulin pump.  Do I feel self-conscious?  Is it awkward during moments of intimacy?  Does it get in the way?  Does he notice it?  Are the blinds drawn? 

I wear my infusion set on my thigh specifically to keep it out of my way – away from the waistbands of pants and skirts, away from the abdominal muscles I am working furiously to uncover, and away from my fiancé’s hugging arms.  For me (I only speak for myself here), I feel sexier when my infusion set is safely adhered, working flawlessly, and out of my sight.  Diabetes incognito – still well-managed, but not the focus.

Since I have been pumping – almost four years now – I have always disconnected my pump during sex.  Whether it’s off before anything starts in earnest, or whether I’m discreetly disconnecting it and tossing it underneath my pillow or on the bedside table, I am not wearing it during sex.  (FYI - I also don’t wear my pump while I exercise.  And this is a form of exercise, no?)  I also make sure I keep a pump cap on the site during intimate moments, to keep the sharp edges of the infusion set from scraping up against skin, blankets, etc.  Occasionally, I’ve had the site get tangled up in the undressing moments, but it’s never been an issue.

There have been a few occasions over the last few years when a low blood sugar has entered into my intimate moments.  Instant mood ruiner, as my low symptoms are crying, sweating, confusion, and irritability.  (Not a sexy scene, trust me.)  Once or twice, I’ve had to stop everything completely and treat a hypoglycemic moment.  This is a part of my diabetic sex life.  I can’t lie and pretend it hasn’t happened, but I will say that it hasn’t made a difference in my relationships. 

Sure, there have been awkward moments where I’ve felt self-conscious about my “hardware.”  I’ve also felt self-conscious about my fingernails – it all depends on how the proverbial wind is blowing.  Sex is a normal part of my life.  So is diabetes.      

I’ve asked Chris a few times if he ever notices the infusion set or the pump or any of the diabetes paraphernalia in our sex life and he has honestly answered, “No.”  I’ve also asked him if he’s lying about that.  Again, and this time with a bit of a smile, “No, Kerri.”  I’m not sure if it’s the way I handle my disease or if it’s the way Chris handles it or if it’s a combination of how we manage diabetes as a family, but it doesn’t affect our physical relationship.

So long as the blinds are closed.  ;)

Comments

Kerri,

This makes me feel a lot better. I have not been in a relationship since I started the pump and it's been on my mind lately...wonder why :) Thanks for having the guts to bring it up and let me know that it will all work out.

The unwrapping and application of a condom are far more disruptive than the diabetes pump.

Pretty brave, but can't help but feel a little icky about it. Put a link to something Disney for Mom and Dad, as long as its not Vanessa Hudgens.

Kerri

Great post. Before I got a pump (over 9 years now) one of the things I wondered about was what to do during sex. Luckily I was at an advocacy training session in Lilly and I met one women who had a pump and who was prepared to answer all my questions about living with it, including how to deal with sex.

After that conversation with her, I went home and immediately started the paperwork!

You are quite brave for posting about this. ;) (And as always, your brother has me giggling.)

I always joke that because my husband is a mechanical engineer, the fact that I'm hooked up to a machine is a turn on. I mean, what nerd doesn't want to be seduced by a sexy Cyborg?

But seriously, I agree with you once again. Having diabetes since you've been (in my case) 8 years old, I wouldn't know what sex would be like without it! It really helps to have a partner who's willing to help you no matter what. Generally I am about to fall asleep after everything is through, and Matt is the one to say "Did you reconnect? Do you need to check your blood sugar?"

Ever forget to reconnect while getting re-dressed then end up going out to lunch realizing you never reconnected? Yeah, I wouldn't recommend that...

Being an old married lady (3 years this November!) and a pumper of one year, the addition of the pump to our sex life was pretty matter of fact. I just disconnect (the Cozmo's new disconnect feature is great!) and set the pump on the bedside table.

What's most crucial to me is making sure my blood sugar is at a steady level and I don't have too much insulin-on-board, because my blood sugar always drops during sex... it is exercise! Though it's not incredibly romantic, when it's clear sex is on our minds, I just say, "Let's see what my blood sugar is." My husband knows that if it's low, some O.J. will have to come first :) We had a few moments inturrupted by a low, so we'd both prefer I make sure I'm good before anything starts.

Great post Kerri! Sex is a real (if slightly blush inducing) fact of adult life with type 1.

I've been on the pump for about two years now, and in those two years I have become a lot more comfortable in sharing my sex life with diabetes. When David and I first started our relationship, he was very sweet and bought a pack of juice boxes and had them next to the bed. Now, as a married woman with a husband that sounds a lot like your Chris, I still get those moments of a low during intimate moments and we just relax together until it passes and usually are able to continue on. Of course, its not easy adjusting to it. I had the same reservations as everyone. But if you find a great partner who deals with your diabetes daily, I don't think that it crosses their minds as much as we think it does. Maybe I'm wrong... I don't know. But I think that what you said sums up a lot of the questions I've had on the topic.

Great post Kerri! Trust me when I say this. Lows are even more of a pain during intimate moments for a guy. I believe this was covered by Ryan Bruner a few months ago.

I wear my infusion set on my thigh as well and I agree that for me it is much less invasive than the abdomen.

This was a wonderful post, Kerri. An insight to what it might be like for things people might not otherwise think about. I'm sure a lot of people will relate to this.

GREAT post Kerri! Thanks for talking about something every person with diabetes thinks about.

Awesome post, Kerri! I thought I'd take the opportunity to share with you readers about two groups we have in TuDiabetes that very relevant to this topic:
-For women:
http://tudiabetes.com/group/diabetesandsexuality
-For men:
http://tudiabetes.com/group/diabetesandsexualitymen

Thanks for this Post Kerri. Why do we still have a hang up about this stuff? Anyway, I also always disconnect but I wish Master would stfu afterwards. I mean, "Beep Boop Beep" can get annoying. Maybe I should cue up some sleezy saxophone.

:)

Very nicely written, Kerri :)

And I was counting on your brother chiming in with a comment. He pretty much said what I thought he would, LOL.

Speaking from the other side (not being the one who wears the pump) I really could care less the pump is in the room - the pump is a reality which must be contented with, but the feelings for, well, Christel, my wife, are much stronger and the pump has just become white noise. And, yes, there are times when a day of highs and lows get in the way, but that is a part of ANY healthy relationship. People are not static. We humans in long term relationships, with or without diabetes, are not ALWAYS going be at our best.

This was a pretty brave post on your part.

Hi Kerri,
my hubby and I both wear a pump...it has, on occasion, been a tangled mess. But what can be romantic than hearing, "hey honey, wanna bump some pumps?" There are some things that those non-diabetics out there will never have the joy of hearing!

Oh
My
GAWD!

You're having SEX? And you're not married yet? I am shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you.


Julia - Shhhh! My mother may have not caught on yet. ;)

I think perhaps where this issue may get a little thornier is when sex outside of committed relationships is thrown into the mix, or sex at the dawn of a relationship. If you try to keep the diabetes issue fairly discreet when you're just getting to know someone, an insulin pump can come off as quite a mysterious surprise to an unsuspecting partner. There may be many reasons to avoid such quick and casual 'relationships,' but fear of having to explain unsexy medical dependencies in the heat of passion is a rather unfortunate one.

From a man's perspective with diabetes, I always have to make sure my infusion site isn't somewhere where it will scratch my wife. I'll leave the details unsaid.

Hi Kerry, love the post I am a 23 year old just about to get a pump and as I am singel sex with a pump is a big worry for me. Thank you for your blog it gives me confidence!!!

Love making for a Type I Man becomes difficult after two or three decades with the disease. Years of the disease wears on the body. My Body :

AMAZING POST! It really helped me a lot because I have been struggling with this issue.

i wear an omni pod and i find it to be an amazing inconvenice during sex. the omni pod cannot be removed before i get started and has been riped of before. also the worst thing about diabetes and sex is my inabillity to maintain an errection during a low. now that is one hell of a mood killer

When i first got an insulin pump i was just beginning to be sexually active. And i had a lot of awkward moments and had to do a lot of trial and error. I had to plan ahead (which is difficult)by being careful of the site on my stomach or torwards my back (love handles)which are my fav. sites. There was ripping of the site pleanty of times...ouch! Then time becomes an issue because you shouldn't be disconnected from your body for an hour. Yeah it can suck

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