Sexual dysfunction, an invisible complication of diabetes – an exploratory study of the experiences of premenopausal women with Type 1 diabetes
Keywords:Type 1 diabetes, sexual dysfunction, psychological health, qualitative research
Background: Survey data suggest that women with Type 1 diabetes mellitus have a higher prevalence of sexual dysfunction (SD) compared with women with Type 2 diabetes or without diabetes. However, little is known about how women with Type 1 diabetes experience SD or its impact on their lives. This exploratory study sought to elicit women with Type 1 diabetes’s experiences of SD and identify their ideas on how SD could be better addressed in diabetes care.
Method: A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was conducted at a diabetes centre in South West of England hospital. A purposeful sample of six women with Type 1 diabetes (<50 years of age) and experience of SD were interviewed. The interviews lasted 20–30 min and were analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis.
Findings: The study identified four superordinate themes: barriers to sex, impact of SD, personal support and ideas for improving support with SD. The majority of the themes were underpinned by diabetes specific factor such as hypoglycaemia, body image and diabetes management (technology and glucose regulation). This study found that women’s perspectives on their sexual identities and behaviours were mediated by emotional and interpersonal issues. This study also highlighted the lack of support provided by healthcare professionals (HCPs) in addressing SD.
Conclusion: The findings indicate that SD is a complex issue that needs to be given more attention by HCPs, so that the women can approach sex positively in their lives. HCPs need to be enabled to initiate conversations around SD in their consultations.
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