Intimacy, in Sickness and in Health

Intimacy in Sickness and in Health

Does a medical condition keep you from having a healthy sex life? It doesn’t have to. Learn how keep the intimacy in your relationship – even when you’re limited by a health problem.

When you’re not feeling well, sometimes the best medicine is a hug. Yet, you may tend to withdraw from your partner. If you are recovering from a heart attack, you may worry that sexual arousal could trigger a second one. If you have lost a breast to cancer, you may feel you are no longer attractive to your mate. If you have arthritis, you may feel too achy to move around in bed.

There are ways to work around health problems so you and your mate can still enjoy intimacy.

Chronic pain

If pain is putting a damper on your sex life, talk to your doctor. Ask if medication or other pain relief measures can help. Tell your partner exactly what feels good to you and what may hurt. Try new sexual positions to find one that is comfortable. Take a warm bath to soothe muscles before sexual activity. You and your partner may also enjoy sharing “pillow talk” if you are not up to physical activity.


Medication, surgery, cancer treatment and illness can leave you without energy. Even if illness has sapped your sexual desire, you may still enjoy a sensual massage. Try new sexual positions to find one that is less physically demanding. Have sexual relations in the morning if you have more energy then. Some couples use a vibrator to stimulate the woman, which requires less exertion.

Performance problems

In men, impotence can be a side effect of diabetes, heart disease, medication or surgery. In women, medication, illness or surgery may make the vagina smaller and dryer, making intercourse painful. These problems can often be treated with medication or other treatment. Your doctor can discuss these with you. Remember that there are many forms of sensual pleasure besides intercourse. A foot rub, anyone?

Heart disease

Men with heart disease may worry that having sex puts too much strain on the heart. The chance of a second heart attack from having intercourse is very low, however. Climbing two flights of stairs is considered more strenuous than having sex. The National Institute on Aging says that most people who have had heart attacks can start having sex again three to six weeks after their condition is stable and their doctor agrees it’s okay.

Body image

Illness can affect your state of mind as well as your body. Being incontinent, having prostate surgery or losing hair from cancer treatment can make you feel less desirable. Discussing these issues with a counselor or support group may help. If your mate is ill, offer reassurance that he or she is still attractive to you.

As you like it

Illness doesn’t have to put a damper on sexual enjoyment. When you are ill, you may need the closeness and comfort of a partner more than ever.

Physical contact can help you cope with the stress of not feeling well. A kiss or having an arm around you is an expression of caring. Even if you are very sick, chances are that a gentle, loving touch will still feel good.

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