Sex and COPD: Start the Conversation

Having chronic lung disease can affect all aspects of your life. Some symptoms are not as apparent as others. Many people worry if they are still attractive to their spouse. You might feel left out if you can no longer do a social activity you used to as dancing or hiking. Depression becomes common. You can stop this from happening with your attitude and by adapting activities to what you can do.

Symptoms as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath can be controlled when being intimate with your loved one. The number one requirement in any relationship is to talk directly to your partner about your fears and desires. Starting the conversation might be the hardest step but you will be glad you did. You could put your feelings in a letter, telling them what you would like in your relationship and asking what they expect or would like to happen. Explain that you probably will become short of breath but it is not something to be afraid of.

Be sure to be in the best physical condi- tion by joining or maintaining an exercise program. Building up your exercise toler- ance can only help!

If you know the time of day when you feel the most energetic, this might be the right time to be intimate. Don’t make it seem like an appointment, you could flirt a bit with a wink and a smile to get things started! It doesn’t always have to happen at bedtime.

Don’t have scented candles in the room or anything that may be irritating to your lungs.

Turn the overhead or bedside fan on to keep your cool.

As with any exercise, use your short- acting bronchodilator like Albuterol, about 15 minutes beforehand. If you have prob- lems with secretions, try and clear your air- ways first. Use your oxygen at your activity liter flow level!

Avoid eating a large meal beforehand as well as drinking alcoholic beverages.

Try different sexual positions to find which ones work best for you and your partner. Avoid positions that put pressure on the chest of the partner with lung prob- lems. Side-by-side or seated positions in a chair may be better.

There is no shame in taking a break! If at any point during sex, the partner with lung disease starts to feel short of breath, he/she should slow down or pause to rest while still giving and receiving caresses during the break. You want to have the most intimate experience you can manage, not prove your sexuality.

Kissing, cuddling, bathing together, mas- sage, and touch are important parts of being intimate. Get creative! Couples connect on a whole new level when they think and talk about what they want to do sexually.