The act of sexual intercourse is much like any physical activity or exercise. Depending on the level of physical exertion, it can burn up to 600 calories. Make sure when you engage in sexual activity you are adequately prepared to avoid the risk of hypoglycemia. If your blood glucose level is normal or low before engaging in sexual activity and you burn up a significant number of calories during sex, you may develop hypoglycemia. Be aware that you may need an extra snack after sex, just like any other exercise. In addition, many people with diabetes have circulatory problems. You may want to check with your doctor to make sure that your body can withstand the level of exertion required for sex
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include shakiness, nervousness, sweating, irritability, impatience, chills, clamminess, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, light-headedness, hunger, sleepiness, anger, stubbornness, sadness, lack of coordination, blurred vision, tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue, nightmares, crying out during sleep, strange behavior, confusion, delirium and unconsciousness.
What You Should Do
If you have any of the symptoms of hypoglycemia, especially if you have engaged in sexual activity, test your blood glucose level right away. If your blood glucose level is below 60mg/dl, you need to treat the hypoglycemia. Eat about 10g to 15g of a fast-acting carbohydrate snack. You may find it handy to keep a snack on your nightstand to eat after engaging in intercourse. Better yet, share a snack with your partner.
If you use an insulin pump, you may want to unhook it during periods of sexual activity, to avoid having your blood glucose levels fall too low. How long you can safely keep it off depends on how active you are. If in doubt, test your blood glucose level.
Ask your doctor about what blood glucose levels are safe for you following sexual activity, especially if you to go to sleep right away. If you engage in sex before bedtime, you may also want to cut your nighttime insulin dose. Talk to your doctor about the best way to handle this.
If you show any signs of a severe hypoglycemic reaction, your partner may need to give you a glucagon injection or seek emergency help for you. Make sure your partner knows the signs of severe hypoglycemia and is knowledgeable about how to administer glucagon.
The best way of preventing hypoglycemia is to keep close tabs on your blood glucose levels. Before initiating any sexual activity, as with any exercise, check your blood glucose level. Ask your doctor about the level at which you should take an extra snack. A general guideline is to eat a carbohydrate snack if your blood glucose level is less than 100mg/dl. Remember that any physical activity, including sex, can trigger hypoglycemia several hours after you engage in it.
Sources and References
The Diabetes Problem Solver—Quick Answers to Your Questions About Treatment and Self-Care by Nancy Touchette
Diabetes and Sexual Dysfunction: Current Perspectives by M Maiorino, G Bellastella and K Esposito