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Relationships and sex

Having a long-term chest condition does not mean you have to give up having an intimate relationship. However, problems with lack of energy, coughing and breathlessness may affect your stamina and interest in sex. You may even avoid sexual intimacy because you are scared you may cough or get breathless. Other symptoms such as depression, anxiety and some drugs (such as those for high blood pressure and some antidepressants) can also affect your sex drive.

Whatever your concerns, try to talk with your partner about your worries. It is not always the easiest conversation to start but you may well find that it is something that worries your partner too.

Keep communicating

  • It’s important to keep communicating, honestly, with each other as it is easy for a partner to feel rejected when sexual intimacy changes.
  • Maintaining, or resuming, intimacy and closeness in a relationship is important and can help to combat the loneliness and isolation you may feel.
  • Remember that you can express your feelings in many different ways, through talking but also with body language and physical contact such as kissing and cuddling.
  • Talking to your partner about how you feel and any worries you may have will make it easier for you both to deal with the situation before it becomes a problem.

Even though you may find it embarrassing, talk to your doctor if you are having problems with sex. Your doctor will be used to talking about personal matters even if you are not.

Practical advice

  • You may need to plan sexual activity more than you did before. Perhaps at a time of day that is least stressful or when you feel most rested.
  • Use breathing control and take rests if you need to.
  • Choose a position that is less energetic and avoids pressure on the chest, e.g. lying on your side during intercourse may be more comfortable and less tiring.
  • If you need oxygen therapy, use the same amount of oxygen during sex as you would during other physical activity.
  • Speak to your doctor if you think your medicine is affecting your sex drive.
  • Do not buy or use drugs such as Viagra© unless your doctor has prescribed it for you.

Remember breathlessness is in your control and it will not harm you. Planning ahead and using the above coping strategies will give you the confidence to keep sexually active if this is what you and your partner want.