Relationships and sex after a heart attack
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Relationships and sex after a heart attack

Explore some useful things to know about intimacy after a heart attack.

Key takeaways

  • Your relationships may change after a heart attack. 
  • It’s possible to resume a normal sex life. 
  • If there are any problems, help is available. 
  • Never stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor. 
4 min read
It’s not unusual for people to find that their health affects their relationships. After a heart attack, your relationships and your sex life may change. 

It can be really uncomfortable to talk about this. The good news is that most concerns can be overcome. 

Relationships  

After you’ve had a heart attack, you may find that some of your relationships are different.  For example, your role at home might have changed. Try to be patient while you adjust.   

The best thing you can do is talk about how you’re feeling. It might be hard, but it lets people know how they can help. Some couples find it easier to talk with a relationship counsellor. 

Hearing from other people who have been through a similar experience as you can help. See Gary, Joanne and Margaret’s stories now. 

Sex and intimacy 

Your sex life doesn’t have to be on hold for too long. If you’re thinking about it, here are some guidelines: 
 
  • Sex is usually a mild to moderate activity. So, if you can climb two flights of stairs without pain or shortness of breath, then you should be fine. 
  • If you’ve had surgery, wait until you’re healed (usually 6-8 weeks). Don’t put any weight your chest. 
  • Avoid sex after eating a large meal, drinking alcohol or when you’re tired. 
 
You may feel less interested or less able for a while. This is normal, and the feeling usually only lasts for a short time. It can be due to being tired or anxious, or it could be caused by your medication. Try to be patient until things get back to normal. 

Remember, there are other ways to feel connected. Kissing, cuddling, holding hands and just spending time together will make you feel close and loved. 

Starting again 

Take things slow. At first, try to be the less active partner. You can start with activities that take less energy, such as an erotic massage or touching, which will still fulfil your needs and your partner’s. 

Some sexual positions may be more comfortable, and can ensure you avoid stress on your breastbone if you’ve had surgery.  

Make sure you’re relaxed. Creating a romantic atmosphere can help reduce your stress. 

Timing is also important. Make sure you’re well rested and don’t rush – have lots of time to enjoy each other. 

And there’s more good news – the lifestyle changes that help your heart can also help your sex life! 

Worries 

If you’re worried about having sex after your heart attack, talk to your partner or your doctor. You can also speak to your cardiac rehabilitation coordinator, or, if you’d prefer to talk over the phone, you can call the Heart Foundation Helpline. 

Some men experience erectile dysfunction. This means that they’re unable to maintain an erection. It’s common, and can be caused by things like medication, stress, anxiety or depression. Medication or other aids may be useful. 

Your doctor will know how to help, and there are many excellent resources. 

Side effects 

Some heart medication can affect your sex life by reducing your desire for sex, or causing physical changes that make sex uncomfortable. Some antidepressant medication can also affect your ability to have an erection or an orgasm. 

There are some simple things you can do. You can:
 
  • Talk to your doctor. Your doctor will have advice and suggestions 
  • Buy lubricant from the pharmacy 
  • Plan to have sex before you take your blood pressure medicine to avoid the negative effects (such as impotence). 
 
Remember, never stop or change your medication without talking to your doctor.

The Heart Foundation helpline can give you more support and information. Just call 13 11 12 during business hours.  
 
  1. Know the warning signs of a heart attack.  
  2. Take time to return to intimacy and sex, speak to a health professional if you have any concerns.   

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