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American Stroke Foundation

WellnessSex and Sexuality after a Stroke

Sex and Sexuality after a Stroke

In occupational therapy, sexuality is included as an activity of daily living. Returning to sexuality and one’s sexual expression can be just as important a goal as taking a shower or taking care of one’s personal hygiene independently after a stroke.

Sexuality (00:25- 00:56)

In occupational therapy, sexuality is included as an activity of daily living, which are activities one does to take care of their own body, like showering or brushing your hair. Sexual activities are any activities that result in sexual satisfaction or meet relational or reproductive needs. With these two definitions it is understandable how returning to sexuality and one’s sexual expression can be just as important a goal as taking a shower or taking care of one’s personal hygiene independently after a stroke.

Sex After a Stroke (00:57-01:47)

Research has shown that 94% of stroke survivors experienced some impact on their sexual activities due to their stroke and that over 70% of stroke survivors wish that that they had received information on sex after their stroke. This information can sometimes get forgotten in favor of focusing on other rehab goals. Some people have a fear of having another stroke while having sex, but research has shown that that risk is very low, as having sex is typically no more strenuous than going up a couple of flights of stairs.

Aphasia & Communication (02:09-02:38)

Communication during sex is important and if you’re unable to communicate clearly, you might prefer to avoid sex entirely. If this is something you are experiencing, one way to overcome this is come up with nonverbals for you and your partner to use. These can be as simple as a head nod or hand squeeze to say yes or no. Make sure both partners know these signals and can do them easily during sexual activities. Use these signals regularly and make sure to check in with each other more often during sex.

Partner Fear & Role Changes (02:39-03:29)

Role changes occur after a stroke as well. Instead of having your relationship roles be that of a married couple, you might now feel like your main role is that of a caregiver or a stroke survivor. If this is occurring, try going back to the basics, focusing on intimacy and how you and your partner express your love for each other. If you have a fear of hurting your partner as a caregiver, communicate and prepare beforehand so you know what is comfortable and not painful. Check in often!

Decreased Mobility & Energy (03:30-04:04)

If mobility is an issue for you, two easy solutions are to have the more mobile partner be on top and to use pillows to prop you or your partner up as needed. If energy is a main concern for you, scheduling sex might be a good solution. Do whatever you need to do beforehand to make yourself comfortable. Go to the bathroom, take a shower, make sure no one is going to bother you, and go at your own pace.

Communication with Health Professionals (04:05-04:39)

A common experience of many stroke survivors is that this topic is not covered so their questions are not answered. If this is something you want to know more about, prepare some questions to ask your doctor, whether it’s a question about any medications you might be on or something else. Write them out or bring your partner with you to help you ask and remember everything you learn. If you are still experiencing major barriers to resuming sexual activities, you can be referred to other professionals who specialize in the field of sexuality.

Remember This! (04:41-05:26)

  • Communicate before, during, and after intimate activities
  • Focus on intimacy
  • Take your time and do what feels right for you and your partner
  • Talk to your doctor if you have more questions regarding sexually transmitted infections, medications, or pregnancy

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