Having a good sex life is important, even if you’re sick. In fact, feeling a strong sexual connection to someone is a great way to improve your overall health.
After getting a hepatitis C diagnosis, you may wonder how treatment will affect your closest relationships. There may be moments of self-doubt or a lack of confidence, but it’s completely possible to have a healthy sex life while on hepatitis C treatment. Here’s what you need to know, and tips to guide you.
Talk to your partner before starting treatment. If you’re in a long-term relationship, you probably have a sense of how they handle touchy conversation topics. Planning out how you will talk about the possible side effects of treatment, and how it might change your sex life, can open the door to understanding.
My partner knew about my hepatitis C because I blurted it out in bed on our first night together. After that, we talked about how the virus was transmitted, and our trust in each other began to bloom. Soon, it was easy to talk about our mutual desire to grow as a couple while I was getting treatment for hepatitis C.
When you’re just starting a new relationship, feel it out first. Ask your potential sexual partner how they handle discussing delicate topics. For example, you may ask them if there is anything they have a hard time talking about, or if they’ve ever done something they regretted.
This might allow you to get a sense of how they feel discussing intimate moments with someone who has a health diagnosis. You’ll feel more confident when making a decision about whether to bring it up.
If they’re empathetic and caring, you’ll probably talk about the virus with ease. If not, it’s OK to wait and put your own needs first until treatment is over.
There are many ways to share sexual energy and still conserve your strength. During the few weeks you are on treatment, take care of yourself physically. Use this time to discover new and meaningful ways of pleasuring each other.
Have you considered that a massage or mutual masturbation can be as satisfying as an energetic romp? Perhaps you can explore the idea of tantric sex, which preserves energy by exploring each other’s desire, without pressing for a climatic ending.
Masturbation can be a relaxing boost to your mood. Sending pleasure signals between your body and your brain can create a sense of vitality.
If you’re tired after a day of work while on hepatitis C treatment, self-pleasure can be a great way to drift off to sleep. Ask your partner to join you for mutual masturbation, and imagine the freedom of finding new ways to explore the physical and emotional sides of your relationship.
While you may still want to be close to your partner sexually, everything may not always work on cue. Give yourself a break until you finish treatment. While taking meds, it may be hard to get in the mood. Be honest about what you’re going through, and invite your partner to try something new.
If you’re worried about performance while on treatment, try taking things a little slower and relax together by enjoying oral sex for pure pleasure. After you’re done with treatment, and fatigue fades into the past, you’ll have learned new ways of communicating your sexual desire.
Consider adding some variety to your sex life while on treatment by keeping a basket or box of pleasure items nearby. For example, sexual aids can enhance pleasure and might add a playful atmosphere at the same time. Lubricants can aid with comfort, allow for more exploration, and are useful if you are using condoms or other barrier methods to lower the risk of transmitting an STI.
During treatment, I sometimes felt the desire for human touch and longed to be held. Low energy levels meant that sometimes cuddling was enough for me. On occasion, I was on the receiving end of sex, without putting much effort into it.
Still, at other times, it was me who would initiate sex when I was feeling refreshed. Be in touch with your energy levels. You might feel friskier first thing in the morning, or after a short nap.
If you’re worried about having a healthy sex life while on treatment, remember that there are many ways to stay physically close. With honest communication, and the desire to have fun together, you may look back on treatment as a time of sexual growth.
Keep in mind, the benefits of sex are more than just physical. You can enjoy the psychological and emotional benefits of a healthy sex life before, during, and especially after treatment.
Karen Hoyt is a fast-walking, shake-making, liver disease patient advocate. She lives on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma and shares encouragement on her blog.