Can you have sex if you have a chronic illness?


Can you have sex if you have a chronic illness?

Chronic illness and other disabilities can come with symptoms like pain and fatigue. No matter what’s causing it, these symptoms can take a toll on different parts of someone’s life — including their sex life! Sometimes, it can be difficult to find information about having a sex life with chronic pain and fatigue. But if you or your partner has a chronic illness, it’s natural to have questions about how this can affect sexual health!

It’s important to know that people with chronic illnesses can want and need sexual pleasure just like anyone else. Having chronic pain or fatigue — or any kind of disability! — doesn’t mean someone can’t or shouldn’t have sex. There are as many ways to be sexually active as there are people. And, sex and orgasms can even help some people living with chronic pain or fatigue feel better! Studies have shown that orgasms can help with pain management and aid in seep.

Sexual pleasure and chronic illness

When it comes to sex, there’s no one “right” way to do things. The most important thing is that everyone involved feels good about what’s happening. So, you can try different things and see what works for you! Everyone’s body is different. Some things that you might want to think about if you have chronic pain or fatigue are:

  • What makes your body feel good?
  • What makes you feel confident about your body?
  • Is there any specific activity that you know can cause flare-ups?
  • What parts of your body might need support during sex?
  • How much physical activity are you comfortable with?
  • What can your partner do to help you get in the mood?

Talking about these things with your partner can help you find sex that feels good for everyone! Sharing these things can also be a way of getting in the mood without using a lot of energy. You can try saying things like “it feels good when you ____” or “I think it’s hot when ____”.

It can help to listen to your body when having sex with chronic pain or fatigue. If that’s difficult, learning about the pain scale can be a good place to start! You can check in with your partner and let them know if or when you need breaks. There’s also nothing wrong with trying different things to find what works! Switching positions, going from harder to softer pressure, and changing the pace up can all be good things to adjust if the sex your having leaves you feeling sore in ways you’d rather not be sore.

Assistive technology and sex toys

It’s common for people with chronic pain, fatigue, and other disabilities to use assistive technology during sex. Assistive technology is anything that helps improve someone’s mobility, pain levels, or quality of life with chronic illness or disability! Some ways people can use assistive technology during sex include:

  • Wearing compression gloves or tape when masturbating themselves or a partner
  • Using a shower chair or handrail for stability during shower sex
  • Having sex in different positions that can include a wheelchair or other mobility aid
  • Incorporating pain-relief gel or heating patches into sensual massage

You can also think about which parts of your body are strongest, and which need support when looking for sex toys! While most sex toys aren’t specifically designed with chronic illness in mind, some toys are designed for people who struggle with energy levels or mobility. These include:

  • Dildos that attach to different parts of the body, like the thigh or chin, for people who have trouble thrusting with their hips
  • Special wedge pillows to help elevate and cushion parts of the body during sex
  • BDSM restraints designed to attach to wheelchairs

While some sex toy shops don’t have sections for shoppers with disabilities, you can ask the people who work there for recommendations! You can also think about your own body and what you like when picking out toys that work for you. Just because a toy isn’t specifically labelled as disability-friendly doesn’t mean it can’t be you-friendly!

When one partner has a chronic illness and the other doesn’t

If you’re in a relationship with someone who has a chronic illness or disability, it’s important to listen to them and understand their limits! Chances are, they know best what their body is capable of. You can also look for reliable sources of information on their condition to help you understand and support them better! For some common or serious conditions, partner support groups can be a great place to talk to other people navigating the same kinds of things. Learning on your own and then talking to your partner to get their perspective can show that you care about what they’re going through. And, it can help you both find ways of having sex that feel great!

Sometimes, relationships where one person has a chronic illness or disability and the other person doesn’t are called inter-abled relationships. Inter-abled relationships can have benefits and challenges, just like any other relationship! It’s important for everyone in an inter-abled relationship to talk about how their partner’s health or disability status affects them. Sometimes that can mean talking about things that can be uncomfortable, like if one person wants to have sex more often than another, or wants to have a certain kind of sex that the other person can’t or doesn’t want to do.

It’s important to know that talking about these things is okay. As long as everyone is respectful of each other’s needs and limits, disability can be just a regular part of a healthy relationship!

No matter what someone’s health or disability status is, it’s never okay to pressure them or force them to do sexual things that they don’t want to do. Using someone’s health or disability status to make them feel guilty, ashamed, or like they have to do things they don’t want to do is a form of coercion. If you’ve experienced anything like this, know that it is wrong, it is illegal, and it’s not your fault. Check our resources below for places you can reach out to for support.

Leaning more

Did you know that 27% of Canadians over the age of 15 have a disability? If you don’t have any disability, don’t worry – chances are high that you will become disabled for at least 6 months during your adult life. Disability is a common and natural part of being a human! So, it can help to learn more about what disability means and looks like in the places where we live.

Organizations like RAPLIQ in Montreal have more information about disability rights and advocacy. But when it comes to learning more about sex and disability, there are lots of other resources! Books like The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability by Miriam Kaufmann and Cory Silverberg can be a good place to start. There are also lots of people in inter-abled relationships who share their lives and experiences online! If you or your partner is ill or disabled, doctors and sexologists can help you learn more about specific conditions and needs.

However you navigate it, life with chronic pain and fatigue can have just as much sexual pleasure as life without!

More info

Sexuality And Disability

A site for women with physical, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities. Contains frank and honest discussions of sex and sexuality from the perspectives of disabled women.

Basics of Sexual Satisfaction

Sexualityandu.ca article talking about achieving sexual satisfaction. Emphasizes the different kinds of sexual satisfactions one can achieve that includes, but is not limited to, intercourse.…


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