Living With An Insulin Pump

The article below is written by Joslin Diabetes Center (www.joslin.org), a nonprofit teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School. Joslin does not endorse commercial products or services.

You may have questions about the practical aspects of wearing a pump. For instance, where do you wear it? How do you sleep with it? What do you do with the pump when you shower? Read on for answers to commonly asked questions about wearing a pump.

How do I wear an insulin pump?

Wearing a pump is easier than you may think. Years ago, pumps were bulky and heavy. Today’s pumps are much smaller and are often mistaken for a pager or cell phone. Most people clip a pump onto the waistband of their pants or skirt, or slip it into their pocket. Women who wear skirts or dresses have the option of tucking it into their bra or purchasing a special pouch that can be strapped to the thigh or calf. Some women have pockets sewn into their clothes that can hold their pump. Your diabetes educator or pump trainer can describe the available options.

How do I sleep with a pump?

The logistics of sleeping with a pump depend mostly on what type of a sleeper you are. If you tend to stay still for most of the night without a lot of tossing and turning, you can put your pump next to you on the mattress. A lot of people place their pump under their pillow, or attach it to their pajamas. Longer tubing lets you easily put the pump under your pillow or on your bedside table.

What about intimacy and having sex with a pump?

During intimate moments, it’s best to temporarily disconnect your pump and the tubing. You don’t want to get tangled up in the tubing! But don’t stay disconnected for more than about an hour; otherwise, you’ll need to use insulin replacement (meaning, an injection of insulin). It’s also a good idea to suspend your pump so that in case you fall asleep, an alarm will sound to remind you to reconnect.

What do I do with the pump when I take a shower or a bath?

All pumps are water-resistant but not all pumps are watertight. For this reason, most pump-wearers disconnect their pump and tubing while they’re in the shower or bathtub. Another option is to place your pump in a special shower pouch that you can hook on to the shower curtain rod or faucet. If you tend to take particularly long showers or like a nice long soak in the tub for more than one hour, you may need to consider insulin replacement with an injection. Otherwise, once you’re out of the water, dry off, check your infusion set and simply reconnect! It’s a good idea to check your blood glucose once you reconnect and correct for any high blood glucose readings.

Can I go swimming with an insulin pump?

While some pumps are waterproof and can be worn in the water, others are water-resistant, which means they should not be submerged in the water. Make sure you know if your pump is waterproof or water-resistant. As with showering or bathing, it’s generally easier to disconnect from the pump when you go for a swim for less than one hour. Otherwise, you’ll need to have back-up insulin replacement, using either an insulin pen or a syringe and vial. Be sure to check your blood glucose levels more often whenever you disconnect. If you’re at the beach, keep your pump away from sand, sunscreen and direct sunlight.

Can I exercise while wearing a pump?

Absolutely! In fact, exercising with a pump is often easier to manage compared to taking insulin injections. You can wear a special sports pump case when exercising. Cases can be hard or soft and can be worn around your waist, in a harness on your back or strapped to your arm with a band. Some women insert their pump in a sports bra. It’s really a matter of personal preference and what works best for you. For contact sports or long periods of activity, you may find it best to disconnect from the pump and replace your insulin using injections. If you wear your pump while skiing, skating or doing other types of winter sports, you’ll need to protect your pump from the cold by wearing it under layers of clothing so that your insulin won’t freeze. Talk over your options with your pump trainer or diabetes educator and come up with a plan that will work best for you.

Wearing an insulin pump can give you the freedom and flexibility to enjoy and participate in life’s activities without diabetes getting in the way.

Copyright ©2013 by Joslin Diabetes Center. All rights reserved.