It is normal for both partners to be worried about resuming sexual activity after aortic dissection. Most people worry about sexual intercourse because they are afraid it may cause discomfort and/or strain on the heart. The exertion needed to perform sexual intercourse is similar to climbing stairs or walking around the block at a brisk pace. If these activities are not difficult for you, you may resume sexual activities whenever you feel ready with the approval of your doctor. Your best indicator is how you feel-both physically and mentally. While most sexual activity is regarded as safe in patients with acute aortic dissection, it is important to avoid any type of sex that may cause extreme increases in blood pressure. If you have concerns regarding returning to sex, contacting your doctor or a therapist specializing in sexual health may be helpful.
Some general guidelines to help you resume sexual relations include:
- For the first eight weeks, after approval from your aortic specialist, avoid positions that cause pressure on your breastbone or tension in your arms and chest.
- Pick a time when you are content, relaxed, and happy.
- Wait two hours after eating a full meal or drinking alcohol.
- Remember that it is normal for your breathing and heart rate to increase during sex and that these should return to normal shortly afterward. If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain and/or palpitations, stop, and rest.
Let your physician know if you experience any abnormal symptoms.
Some medications may interfere with sexual functioning. If you have any problems, discuss them with your surgeon or nurse. Erectile dysfunction medications may not be safe for patients who have suffered dissection, and should be talked about with your physician.
After an aortic dissection, you should discuss with your doctor about whether it is safe for you to become pregnant. Pregnancy can cause an increase in blood pressure and blood volume, which further strains the aorta. In some patients with connective tissue disorders, pregnancy is discouraged as it can be associated with development of aortic dissection either during pregnancy or after giving birth.
Help with Monitoring
After having an aortic dissection, it is important that you regularly check your blood pressure at home, and take all medications as prescribed to you by your doctor. When it comes to checking your blood pressure, your doctor can instruct you on using a home blood pressure monitor. Generally, you should check your blood pressure at the same time every day. Your arm should be at the level of your heart, feet flat on the floor. You should measure your blood pressure three times, and record the last reading. Blood pressure monitors may be covered by your insurance, or your pharmacy or hospital social worker may help you find other ways to pay for this device.
You may find it helpful to have a trusted family member or friend help you with remembering your medications. Pill boxes divided by time of day and day of the week can provide a visual reminder of what medications you need to take, and your caregiver may help you fill these. Also, calendar, online, or phone reminders will help you remember to take your medications. It is important to find a system that works for you, and enlist the help of others, to ensure you are caring for your health in the best possible way.