Sexual activity

Sexual activity is a common concern among people who live with heart failure. Most people can enjoy sexual activity with some minor changes. You and your partner can continue to share physical closeness and emotional intimacy.

Experiment with new ways of being together. You may find pleasure in giving foot or back massages, caressing and cuddling.

Use common sense and avoid any strenuous activity if you are feeling tired or if you have just eaten. Use positions that are comfortable for you and cause you the least fatigue or exertion.

Certain medicines can affect sexual response. If you find a change in your sexual desire, talk about it with your health care provider.

The following are ways to reduce stress on your heart during sex:

  • Talk to your partner about sexual activity recommendations and possible changes you may need to make.
  • Enjoy sexual activity when you are rested.
  • Avoid sex if you are angry, anxious or resentful.
  • Be sure your room temperature is comfortable.
  • Wait one to two hours after eating a meal.
  • Avoid time restrictions.
  • If you have been drinking alcohol, wait to have sex.
  • If you have shortness of breath or chest discomfort, stop and rest.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Heart Failure, fifth edition, 1-931876-20-7
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 05/01/2015