Is a Sex Life Possible with Lupus?
#LupusWarriors shouldn’t be deterred when it comes to sex, intimacy, and lupus. Any individual after a stressful given amount of time could find the idea of sex to be daunting. Individuals with lupus—especially after a flare—might think physical intimacy sounds impossible.
In a study conducted by a researcher from the Lupus Foundation of America, 33% people with lupus “reported a decrease in desire for sexual intimacy.” And, almost 50% of women in the study avoided sex because of lupus flares.
Unfortunately, it is a topic that doesn’t seem to be covered very often by medical professionals. As reported during a presentation at the Hospital for Special Surgery, only 12% of rheumatologists with large practices assessed sexual functioning.
Continue reading to learn about specific health concerns and strategies for managing them.
The Do’s and Don’t of Being Sexually Active with Lupus
What to Do When Deciding to be Intimate
For any person, sex should be fun but also respected. As with any activity, talk to a medical provider about sex before having it. Your lupus treatment team will have additional insight into health risks.
An important area where your clinicians will have particular insight is contraception. There can be risks when combining medications and contraceptives.
Some individuals with active lupus might experience estrogen-based birth controls actuating the disease and complications from the body abnormally metabolizing the hormone. Just like hormone replacement therapy, sudden influxes in hormones can overwhelm the body.
Therefore non-oral contraceptives that are placed within the body release hormones at a steadier rate. Intra-uterine devices and implants placed in the arm are good options for women with lupus. There is a subset of women, however, that need to be careful of clotting that occurs from progestin.
Lupus can make the skin very sensitive. Vaginal tissue is already sensitive enough but stress, medications, and disease symptoms can cause dryness which can result in tearing. If using a condom during sex is the plan, make sure the condom has a water-based lubricant with non-irritating ingredients or active ingredients. The same goes for a personal lubricant.
Sex is a collaborative activity. Talking to a partner about concerns, anxieties, and preferences is essential. And, obviously finding someone who is empathetic and trustworthy is ideal for any relationship.
Discuss what feels good, what doesn’t feel good, and if the desire is even there at all. Conversations are key to a healthy relationship, so gain the confidence to advocate for mind, body, and spirit.
If planning a pregnancy, be sure to include your doctors as there can be additional challenges. Here is some helpful information on pregnancy and lupus from the Lupus Foundation of America.
What Not to Do When Deciding to be Intimate
It’s pretty simple. Do not think sex is obligatory—sex is a gift, not a burden. In over-sexualized societies, it might be difficult not to feel the pressure of sex. It is okay to decide it’s not the right time and focus oneself.
Some Things to Consider
If experiencing hip or joint pain, some women with lupus suggest having sex while laying on one’s side. This lessens the pressure on especially the hips and knees.
Also, perhaps explore different ways to have sex. Foreplay is a part of sex and might be the solution if experiencing vaginal sensitivity or dryness. Again, talk to the other person involved.
There are also specialty products and shops available to help increase not only drive and interest but the desired physical results. If this is a new concept, the conversation might be a little awkward but nonetheless necessary (and potentially a lot of fun!).
Final Thoughts—Conversation, Conversation, Conversation
Have conversations with the doctor, partners, oneself—conversation is key to managing an enjoyable and healthy sex life with lupus. Determining the right time and right way may take thought and planning. If it’s not the right time—it’s not the right time. If it IS the right time, remember sex is supposed to be stress-relieving not stressful. Explore all options and do what works for you.