When we think about sex, usually we think about sex between two healthy individuals who are able to engage in sex without limitations. Little, if ever, do we think about what to do in case our bodies or minds are confronted with ailments and/or incidents that may hinder our ability to perform the sexual acts to which we are accustomed. How is sex when there has been a major surgery, such as a hysterectomy? How does sex change when there has been a mastectomy? How can a person have sex when afflicted with fibromyalgia?
When confronted with a limiting health issues, sex does not have to stop. Although sexual activity may significantly change, either temporarily or permanently, sex does not necessarily have to stop, particularly if the sexual desire remains.
SEX WITH FIBROMYALGIA
Fibromyalgia, a syndrome which causes people long-term pain often all over their bodies, as well as tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons and soft tissue, can make sexual relations bothersome, painful, and limited.
“I have the sexual desire to be with my husband, although I suffer from fibromyalgia,” says Maria Ortiz from San Juan, Puerto Rico. “I am unable to masturbate with my hands though. I have learned to adjust to my condition and still enjoy wonderful and abundant sex with my husband.”
Ortiz shared that in spite of her limiting condition, her libido is still high. She wants to have sex with her husband, and, likewise, her husband is still very much interested in having sex with her. She says sometimes she has to work with her body and how she feels when, for example, her hands don’t work well or she suffers pains all over her body. Sometimes, the medications she takes make her sleepy. Nonetheless, Ortiz says, she always finds a way to satisfy both her husband and herself sexually. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, she says.
SEX AFTER SURGERY
Dr. Irving Miranda-Alicea, a surgeon at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, says that the most important thing to do when a patient will undergo a surgery that will impact his or her level of sexual activity is to have a meeting with the patient and his or her sexual partner about how the surgery will impact their lives before the surgery. Doing so will ensure that both the patient and his or her partner are aware of the possible consequences and how their sex life will change before it happens.
Dr. Miranda-Alicea suggests that post-surgery, his patients meet with a psychologist, sexologist, and their primary care physician to discuss a plan on how to get their sexual activity back on track. According to Dr. Miranda-Alicea, surgeries such as mastectomies, hysterectomies, heart surgeries, and any other types of major surgeries can limit the sexual activity of patients long after the procedure has been performed. As sex is an important component of the lives of most patients, communication between the medical care team, the patient and the patient’s sexual partner is key to facilitate the recovery process and ensure that the patient returns to normal activities, including sex, with the most support possible.
Palmira Velez of Miami, Florida, underwent breast surgery after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a partial mastectomy in one of her breasts, followed by a reconstruction. Velez says that regaining her confidence was crucial in enjoying sex again after surgery. She received psychological support and she still follows up with therapy though it’s been several years since her surgery. “It took me a while to feel like myself again. Besides being diagnosed with breast cancer, my relationship of many years with my husband ended around the same time. At first, I developed a complex, thinking that my husband had left because of my diagnosis,” she says. “Therapy helped me sort out what happened and separate both. It took me at least two years to feel confident again, but I started dating and I feel like myself again. Battling breast cancer is hard enough and for me, psychological therapy was imperative to reclaim myself.”
How to have sex with a limiting condition:
- Communicate Honestly and Openly With Your Doctor: Telling your physician how you feel and asking for advice is imperative to help you deal with the physical and emotional implications of any kind of surgery. Do not keep your concerns or questions to yourself. Doing so may only hinder your recovery.
- Follow Physician’s Recommendations: Your physician will tell you when to resume normal activities, including sex. If sex is not mentioned in the medical instructions, ask your doctor when might be a good time to resume having sex again.
- Listen to Your Body: Your body will let you know what is comfortable and what is not. You should pay attention to your pain level and your libido. If you experience a significant decrease in your libido levels or a libido that does not improve after an extended period during the recovery process (especially when you enjoyed a healthy libido and sex life before), consult with your doctor.
- Take Special Measures: If you suffer from dryness after surgery, for instance, after a hysterectomy, the use of lubricants might be necessary to alleviate any discomfort.
- Psychological Therapy: Sexologists, psychologists, or counselors, can help you in your recovery and provide support.
- Communication is Key: The communication between you and your partner is going to be your most important ally in helping you readjust to your sex life. If you cannot have sex the way you used to, finding new positions, incorporating more masturbation into your sex life, and redefining your sex paradigm will help you get back on track.
- Engage Your Support System: When dealing with sex during a limiting health condition, it is important that you don’t bottle up your feelings. Reach out to friends and family, support groups or share your experience with an acquaintance that has gone or is going through a similar experience.
Sex does not have to end when there are health challenges. Seek advice, engage a support system and be open to changes if you still want to enjoy a satisfactory sex life in spite of a limiting health condition.
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