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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Sex & long-term health conditions

Often, people with long-term health conditions experience difficulty with their sexual relationships.

This can be due to:

Long-term health conditions do not need to end sex. Through good communication and planning, you can have satisfying sex. By being creative and willing to experiment, both the sex and the relationship can get better.

Guidelines for improving your sex life

Practical tips


Exercise can help your sex life. Walking, swimming and biking can help to reduce shortness of breath, fatigue and pain and improve your activity tolerance. Do some warm-up exercises before sex.


Use fantasy that you can share with your partner in bed. Become an expert at fantasy by learning some sexual fantasies and practising them several times a week. Then you can call up your fantasy and concentrate on this during sex to distract you from pain, other symptoms or negative thoughts during sex.


Take your medication so that its peak effectiveness is when you're ready to have sex. Some medication can cause sexual difficulties, so talk to your general practice team or pharmacist about timing or alternative medication if this may be a problem.

Mental health

If mental health issues interfere with your sexual function and desire, talk to your general practice team. Individual or couples counselling may help with non-medication related personal relationship, intimacy and sexual problems.


Fatigue can really get in the way of sexual desire. Plan your sexual activities around your fatigue, when you're less tired. This may mean mornings are better than evenings.

Lubricants can help with sensitive or dry genital areas.

Vibrators can be helpful for people with neuropathy (nerve damage), and concentrating on the most sensual parts of the body for stimulation can help make sex pleasurable.



Slow down

Just as in any other physical activity, pace yourself. Stopping to rest is okay. Take it slow and easy, relax and enjoy extended foreplay.

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Written by a private occupational therapist, Canterbury. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created May 2023.


Page reference: 1144254

Review key: HISLT-1144254