If you have recently had a heart attack or a medical procedure for heart disease, you might wonder how long you have to wait before resuming sexual activity. It’s a normal concern and one that you should discuss with your doctor.
But most doctors and patients don’t usually talk about sex. You might be embarrassed or uncomfortable. Your doctor might be focused on your heart care far more than your sex life. According to a 2014 survey by the American Heart Association, only about 19 percent of men and 12 percent of women who had a heart attack discussed their sexual activity with their doctor. And most of them were given restrictions on sexual activity that were not backed up by medical evidence.
Sex is a physical activity. When you engage in sex, your heart rate increases, your blood pressure is elevated, and your body consumes more oxygen. When you have a health scare, one that might have you questioning your mortality, the prospect of having sex can be scary. Is it going to kill you? The good news is that despite what you see on television or in the movies, having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack during sex rarely happens.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to when you can resume having sex. There are many factors, including your general overall health, the severity of your heart condition, the type of procedure, if any, you had, and your progress during your recovery. Secondscount.org, an international, professional organization of cardiologists, does offer some general guidelines:
- If you have angina and have had an angioplasty or stenting, you should wait at least five days after your procedure, as long as you aren’t experiencing discomfort or chest pain.
- For a heart attack, it is recommended that you wait at least three to six weeks, depending on the severity of your heart attack. If you experienced recurrent chest pains or arrhythmias, you should wait longer.
- If you had coronary bypass surgery, you should not consider resuming sex for at least six to eight weeks. Even then, you might want to consider sexual positions that do not put pressure on your sternum.
It is important that your condition is stabilized before resuming sex. Even if you are embarrassed, it is best to talk with your doctor and ask for an assessment of your physical health to determine if it is safe.
Things to keep in mind
Erectile dysfunction (ED) medications can interfere with heart and blood pressure medications according to UT Southwestern Medical Center. If you take ED medications, make sure your doctor is aware of your medication and dosage. Ask about possible interactions and if there are precautions you can take in order to use both medications safely. Never skip or ignore your heart medications in order to use ED medications.
Keep in mind that your partner might be just as worried as you are about resuming sex. Ask your partner to come to a doctor’s appointment with you to discuss whether you are healthy enough for sex and what, if any, precautions you should take.
For women who have had a heart attack or heart condition and are planning on using hormonal birth control it is important to talk to your doctor before beginning your birth control. The estrogen in hormonal birth control can increase your risk of blood clotting and increase your risk of further heart problems, according to the University of Colorado].
As with any exercise, begin slowly, with a gradual increase in intensity. Should you feel discomfort, chest pain or other symptoms of heart problems, stop and rest. If the pain or discomfort continues, you should immediately contact your doctor or call 911.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.