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Sex and Intimacy With Chronic Illness

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

Can you have sex if you have a chronic illness?


A new diagnosis can make doing everyday tasks daunting, including having sex.


You might be worried that your body is no longer functioning as it did or that your symptoms will restrict you.


You might be concerned about how your body looks, feels, or performs.



If your partner is your caregiver, the dynamics in your relationship might have changed. You might also have less energy and desire for sex.


But sex is still possible with a chronic illness as long as you and your partner are willing to communicate and get creative.


1. Sex does not always mean penetration. Get creative and experiment. This can be a great way to maintain closeness with your partner if you are avoiding more strenuous physical activity.


Try out toys or explore mutual masturbation. This can create more intimacy with your partner.


Focus on intimacy and pleasure over performance and orgasm. Non-sexual intimacy, like taking a trip together or just cuddling is also very important.


2. Communication is key. It can be scary to tell your partner that you can’t have sex in certain positions due to pain or fatigue.


But this can be a great chance to get to know each other better and discuss what changes you would like to make in your sex life.


Try to accept that the diagnosis changes the relationship, and try to come up with a new normal for you both.


3. Plan ahead. Make sure that you are well rested before sex. Don’t be afraid to take a break during sex to cool off or hydrate.


For those with POTS:

  • Plan sexual activity when you feel less symptomatic. For many, this is in the afternoon or evening.

  • Avoid positions that cause blood pooling

  • Make sure the room is cool so that you do not overheat

  • Do not skip your medications before sex

  • Avoid taking hot showers and baths before sex


Sex is about the journey, not the destination. So take sex at a pace that you and your partner enjoy, don’t compare your journey with others or what you think ‘should’ happen during sex.


What’s your favorite non-sexual way to boost intimacy with your partner? Let me know in the comments below.

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