After you have had a heart event, you may be feeling many different emotions, including fear, sadness and vulnerability. Sometimes you may want to clam up and withdraw from your partner, but being open and honest is the first step toward helping each other through this difficult time. Here are some other steps.
- Keep communication lines open with your partner. Remember to keep your expectations realistic. The first time you engage in sexual activity after a heart event is not likely to be as pleasurable as your wedding night or other special intimate times you’ve had. It may be awkward to find positions that are comfortable and you may be dealing with new emotions. Both partners should proceed with caution, discuss any concerns with each other and over time slowly build up to the sex life you have in mind.
- Discuss your concerns and questions with your doctor. It can be uncomfortable to discuss personal, intimate details with anyone other than your partner. But the only way to get the help you need is to speak up. Everything you say is confidential and your doctor is a professional trained to help you or refer you to the correct professionals who can help you.
- Be aware that it is normal for you or your partner to have a fear of performing sexually after you have had a heart event. But if you are cleared to proceed with caution, it is likely you will be able to slowly re-establish sexual activity. If you are not able to have the sex life you desire, it is important to discuss this with your doctor. Depression is an underlying condition that is common after heart events and this can affect sexual performance. If it is determined you can be helped by treatment (medications or counseling) for depression, this may help your sexual performance.
- Proceed with caution even after you are cleared by your doctor. Most people are able to resume sexual activity within six weeks after a heart event. Usually this involves being free of chest pain and other complications. Then your doctor will likely want you to first pass an exercise stress test to be sure your heart can handle physical activity, including sexual activity.
General Guidelines for Resuming Sexual Activity After a Heart Event or Procedure
The table on this page offers general guidelines for returning to sexual activity after various heart events. They are meant to inform you of typical recommendations, but it is always best to ask your doctor when it is okay for you to resume sexual activity. Your doctor will consider all of the details about your heart condition and recovery before making a recommendation that is tailored just for you. If you are uncomfortable or nervous bringing up the topic of sex with your doctor, you might find the questions here to be helpful conversation-starters. And to learn more about common concerns related to living with cardiovascular disease, visit the SecondsCount Healthy Living Centers.