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Let’s talk about sex.

January 28, 2012

Having a chronic illness can really put a crimp in your sex life.  Fatigue, pain, malaise just don’t set the right mood.  Sometimes fear holds us back, wondering if sexual activity will cause unpleasant symptoms or even endanger our lives.

When people have an illness or a serious health event, they frequently have questions about sex.  But how often do they actually discuss their concerns with their doctor?  I know after my heart attack I felt more comfortable looking up information myself than asking my cardiologist.  Granted, I’m a nurse and already had a good background knowledge of heart disease, but others without this knowledge do the same thing.

So why are people so uncomfortable discussing this subject?  People think about sex the most and talk about it the least it seems.  I don’t have any big answers to that question, other than observing it’s an attitude common in American culture.  I’ve found in talking with some of my chronic disease friends though that if someone breaks the ice, people have a lot to say.  It’s a relief to get things out in the open and hear that other people have the same concerns and problems.

As far as safety, for people with heart disease guidelines say if you can handle walking up stairs you can handle sex.  Uncomfortable symptoms on the other hand don’t make sex dangerous but sure make it hard to get in the mood.  Sometimes the medications that keep us going work against us as far as getting romantic is concerned by reducing drive or making it difficult (or impossible) to achieve orgasm.  Here’s an article on that gives some handy tips for more successful encounters.

Here are some ideas I’ve read here and there or just thought of myself over the years:

  • Cultivate flexibility.  I mean mentally, though physical flexibility helps.  Sometimes people get a very rigid idea of what sex means.  Even if you cannot manage your accustomed position or if a man is unable to achieve erection, there are still thousands of ways to enjoy physical pleasure with your partner.
  • Have sex more often.  The more you do it, the more you want to do it.
  • Stay playful.  Nothing kills the mood like making sex serious.
  • Enjoy other types of intimacy with your partner.  Even if you can’t have sex as often as you used to, you can enjoy closeness by sharing other activities you enjoy.

If you are having problems with your sex life related to your chronic condition, do discuss it with your doctor.  There may be steps that can be taken to help.  Working with a couple’s therapist can be helpful if you find it difficult to talk to each other about your sex life.

We can still enjoy life, even with health challenges!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Bj Babcock permalink
    January 28, 2012 3:31 pm

    This was a great article and long overdue, if you ask me!

    All the best,

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