How PH Affects My Sexuality

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by Jen Cueva |

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My husband, Manny, and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in March. If you know anything about my pulmonary hypertension (PH) journey, you know that 17 years have been with PH. That means that Manny has shared me with PH for over half of our marriage.

Although I’m grateful for each new day, PH has affected various areas of my life. I never knew how much it would affect my sexuality as a young woman. Yeah, I know sex is a sensitive topic most of us avoid when discussing PH. But PH and my other coexisting illnesses have affected me in the bedroom. When I experience increased fatigue, pain, or shortness of breath, sex is the last thing on my mind.

I always thought the physical symptoms that deter me from being sexual were just another part of chronic disease. But as I think back, my daily PH symptoms and side effects from treatments also affect my overall self-esteem and sexuality as a woman. I now wonder if men think about their sexuality in much detail. On days when I stay in my PJs and barely get my face washed and hair and teeth brushed, how attractive can that be?

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A day of waiting long hours for appointments or prepping for procedures drains me. All I want afterward is to get in my PJs and rest. Assuredly, Manny is right beside me, comforting me but not expecting anything. He knows having sex is the last thing on my mind these days.

Feelings of inadequacy

Despite those days when I’m feeling unsexy, he chooses to tell me I’m beautiful and loves me through it. However, I struggle with not feeling like an adequate woman when I can’t always uphold my part in our marriage. It seems I’m not alone. A Pulmonary Hypertension News article titled Women’s Sexuality and Sense of Self Profoundly Affected by Disease discusses how PH profoundly affects women’s sexuality. Although more studies are needed, I related to several of the women quoted in that article.

Like PH, my emotions are complex

Life with PH takes a toll on anyone’s overall psyche. But women are known to link self-worth to how they can perform sexually and emotionally, as well as general physical tasks outside the bedroom. I’m no stranger to this. PH and my coexisting illnesses provoke so many different emotions: anger, guilt, anxiety, self-loathing, and more. Like PH, I am complicated and complex.

Open up

Sex is an essential factor in measuring our quality of life, and it’s still possible despite PH or other chronic diseases. Don’t forget to let your medical team know of your concerns and how PH affects your sexuality. This may feel shameful, stigmatized, and complicated. But you’re not alone if you think PH impacts your sexuality.

I’ve learned the best solution is open and honest communication. Manny listens, and although he doesn’t have PH, he understands me when I’m upfront and share my feelings of inadequacy with him. Learning to use sensual touch to comfort your loved one can strengthen the relationship. A creative and caring approach can prove beneficial.

Choosing the days when you feel you need and want that “sexy time” helps. It may not seem very sexy to schedule intimate time in advance, but it can be! Mark your calendar if this enables you to be prepared. If you know it’s on the to-do list, you can rest more ahead of the planned event. Although we all know PH may continue to steal the show, don’t let this discourage you. Try again when you are feeling up to it.

Learning and exploring new ways and positions for intimacy can offer more comfort. Most important, never stop communicating. Communication and consent can be incredibly sexy if you find the right way to discuss. Talking openly and honestly with your partner may help you find solutions to reignite your fire.


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.

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