Maintaining a Healthy and Satisfying Sex Life
COPD symptoms are notorious for interfering with freedom and lifestyle. When you struggle to breathe easily, you must monitor your activity and environment closely, and that may mean giving up some things that have made you happy in the past.
Fortunately, those with COPD don’t necessarily have to give up on a satisfying sex life, nor should they: many science-backed and anecdotal studies agree that physical intimacy and regular sexual activity can improve everything from mind and mood to sleep patterns and heart health.
However, in order to protect your lungs, breathe comfortably, and enjoy the activity to the fullest, you may need to make some adjustments and take some precautions.
Why Communication is Key
The fear of a sudden COPD exacerbation is as much of a barrier to intimacy as the physical symptoms themselves. When you don’t share your concerns with your partner, the worry can build to unmanageable proportions quickly, and there’s a good chance sex and intimacy will lose some of its appeal.
On the other hand, an open and honest discussion about your concerns, limitations, and ideas for adapting sex to suit your COPD can open the door to a more satisfying sex life than you had imagined. If you’re not sure how to start the dialogue, address your most troublesome worries first:
- Fatigue. If you can explain how your fatigue tends to hit you, including the physical feelings that come with it, your partner will be more understanding when your fatigue interrupts an intimate episode. Discuss possible ways to conserve energy, and how to spot the signs of an impending crash, so your partner can help you stay in the comfort zone. Prepare to take breaks if you need to!
- Respiratory spasms. Exacerbations are a worst case scenario, but some COPD sufferers may experience less severe bronchospasms during sex. Give your partner a heads-up if you’re prone to these attacks, and keep your inhaler close by in case you need a quick dose of medication during intercourse. Let them know the symptoms beforehand, so they won’t be startled if you need to stop to address them.
- Expectations. It can be an awkward subject, especially with a new sexual partner, but there are plenty of benefits to discussing your expectations before you make love. Sometimes your expectations won’t match, and that’s OK: when you talk things through beforehand, you give each other the opportunity to make some compromises, think creatively, and overcome any looming fears of inadequacy or disappointment.
Starting the conversation is the hardest part; once you begin to share concerns about your COPD symptoms, it gets easier to dig into deeper topics. You may find it easier to break the ice with a letter or email rather than a face-to-face conversation, but try not to dance around the subject. The clearer you make yourself now, the fewer challenges you’ll run into later on.