If you have suffered from angina, heart disease, had a heart attack or some other serious heart condition, you might be wondering when you can once again have intimate time with yourself or your partner. This is a common worry and hinderance for heart patients, as intimacy is a huge part of being wholly human and when your body does not cooperate or cannot, puts a strain on your life and relationships. “Sexual activity and sexual function are major quality-of-life issues for both men and women with cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Joanne Foody, director of the Cardiovascular Wellness Services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Your medical care provider overseeing your heart care will tell you what your restrictions are when it comes to intimacy and intercourse with your ailments. After a heart attack or surgery, you may be required to take an exercise stress test to validate that your heart can support the active load put on your body. Immediately after surgery, you may be asked to wait for at least two weeks until intimate acts are resumed.
Signs of Heart Trouble
Always pay attention to your symptoms and how your body is feeling! It is important to know the signs that your heart is being overworked or in trouble. The signs are:
- uneven or fast pulse
- feeling lightheaded, dizzy or faint
- chest pain or pressure
- trouble breathing
If these symptoms arise during the day, do not engaged in intimate or sexual activity until you report in to your doctor. If these signs and symptoms appear during the act, stop the act immediately, rest, and contact your doctor. If these signs appear after the act, rest, do not engage again until your doctor has been updated on the situation.
Can I be intimate and sexual with my partner with my heart trouble?
Being intimate and sexual are two different things, but there are possibilities to spend time doing both as long as your doctor has said it is medically safe. Being intimate could mean simply cuddling on the couch together, gently touching, while watching a favorite television show. It could also mean laying in bed closely, looking through pictures of old memories, or it could mean gentle massages with your partner. Sexual behavior could be intimate touching, oral sex, or intercourse. As intimacy and sexual acts are connected, make sure you are getting a good amount of both, as both intimacy and sexual behaviors help to elicit faster healing.
Your health issues could change the way you feel about intimacy and sex and could change and alter the way you do things or like things. Certain things that you may have always done in your sexual routine you may be unable to do, or no longer like. While many are defeated and struggle with this aspect, others use this as a learning experience to learn new things about being intimate and sexual.
You might be afraid of hurting recent surgical sites, or that you could incite another heart attack if you are too active. There are also other common feelings that arise for heart patients when reintroduced to intimacy and sex. They are:
- feelings of worry and stress
- feeling like sex is less enjoyable
- sadness and depression
- less interested in having sex with your partner due to the body and mental changes
- feel like a different person now
- have trouble finding pleasure or release (orgasm)
- loss of libido
How can your Doctor help?
If you experience any of the symptoms discussed in this article, stop the act of intimacy or sex immediately and call your doctor. If the symptoms do not go away after ten minutes, and if your situation warrants, consider calling 911 or following your doctor’s immediate advice for assistance.
If you have questions, your doctor and his office staff can help you to come to a resolution or plan for treatment. Even though sexual issues are considered taboo, doctors are well educated on the topic, and can assist when issues arise. If you find it difficult to discuss with your heart doctor, consider asking your primary care physician for a referral to someone who specializes in after care and intimacy, or consider visiting your local adult sexual education educator.
If you are having feelings of depression, anxiety, or fear, it is possible your doctor could suggest a medication therapy to help ease your worry. There are also many support groups for heart patients, caregivers and their families to help guide them through the rough waters of healing and resuming life.
If the issues you are experiencing are connected to your medications, consider talking to your doctor about brand alternatives, different types of medications available, or any holistic methods that could be useful in your situation. Adjustments could be made, and treatment altered to raise the quality of your life. Do not make any adjustments to your medical care plan without consulting with your doctors.
Erectile dysfunction is a common issue males face after cancer, heart disease or attack, and surgeries. Medications are also a huge cause of this issue, and in some cases, medications that help with this problem can be deadly. Many men are prescribed and take one of these medications without realizing their possible side effects: sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis). (ACS) These medications may not be safe taken with other medications for your treatment! If you are taking nitroglycerin or nitrates, DO NOT TAKE THESE MEDICATIONS! Mixing the two together can cause a life-threatening, sudden drop in blood pressure. Many have also turned to ordering these prescriptions through the mail, which is not safe. You need to check in with your doctors to ensure you have the correct prescription and no medicinal interactions.
How can I be intimate after surgery?
Here are some tips and tricks to think about if you are interested in being intimate again, learning yourself and your new likes after treatment, or being sexually active again.
- Talk to your partner about concerns, worries, new issues, different sexual likes, and any other things that need to be addressed. Communication is the most important key to ensuring that all parties have a relaxing, intimately connecting time.
- Choose a place that is comfortable, private, and familiar to you, so your mind can relax as your body does. Mental fog and worry can nix the best of intimate plans, so it is best to preplan and be prepared.
- Take any prescribed medications to help with erectile dysfunction or other issues before you begin the act. This will allow the medication to properly dissolve and begin to work in the body as it should.
- Pick a time of day when you are at your best and feeling like you have some energy. Normally your doctor would tell you to wait two hours after you’ve eaten.
- Do not underestimate the power of cuddling and caressing when you begin to be intimate. Especially if there are nerves or you feel trepidation. Take your time, do not feel rushed. Only do what you feel up to doing, and do not push and hurt yourself.
- If you are having intercourse, consider positions that are comfortable and do not put undue strain on your body. Do not pick positions that require holding your partner up or lifting their weight. Most all “on-top” positions require more work and strain.
Before beginning any new intimate act or sexual activity during heart treatment for any condition, be sure to check in with your doctor and medical team to ensure that you are not going to endanger yourself finding pleasure. Take it slow and enjoy yourself.