Sexual activity following a heart attack


This leaflet will answer many of the questions associated with having sexual intercourse following a heart attack. Should you have any concerns please ask one of the nurses looking after you in your team or Cas Shotter Lead specialist nurse cardiology.

When is it ok to start making love again?

There is no fixed time, you and your partner can start to have sex again when you both feel ready. It is important to recognise that sex is no different from any other exercise. If climbing stairs and walking briskly cause no problems, it is possible to resume sexual activitiy two weeks after you are discharged, unless your doctor has advised otherwise.

Does sexual intercourse put a strain on the heart?

Having sexual intercourse does not put any extra strain on the heart. Research has shown that more energy can be used when arguing, driving to work or watching exciting television than during intercourse. For the average couple in the privacy of their own home sexual intercourse affects the heart about as much as climbing two flights of stairs. Engaging in extramarital affairs however, has been shown to be more risky as more energy may be used, and feeling guilty about decieving a partner can be stressful.

I don’t feel like making love anymore

Upset feelings after a heart attack are common especially feeling “down”. This can reduce the desire to have sex. This is most often temporary and usually passses as life returns to normal. Feeling tired and unfit may also reduce your interest in sex. As you increase your fitness level your interest in sex will return.

My partner doesn’t seem very keen to make love

Being anxious or upset sometimes take away the interest in sex. Your partner may be worried that making love could make you have another heart attack, this is very rare. Ask your partner to read this leaflet, it may help.

Which position is safest?

There is no one position which is safer than the other. You may consider making love ‘side to side’ as this may make breathing easier. Oral sex is safe and causes no added strain, but anal sex should be avoided in the recovery period, as it may cause the heart to beat irregularly and slow down.

What should I do if I get chest pain during sex?

If you become severely breathless, get chest pain or palpitations whilst making love, slow down or rest a while. If these symptoms do not go away and get worse, contact your doctor. If you suffer from angina you can take a GTN tablet or spray before you make love. This can prevent angina occuring.

Can the tablets I am taking affect my sex life?

Some drugs for the heart can have side effects which can reduce the desire to have sex, or cause difficulty in getting or keeping an erection. If you think the tablets you are taking are responsible, it is important not to stop taking the drug. You should talk to your doctor first.

Shoud I ever avoid sexual intercourse?

You should avoid sexual intercourse in the following situations:

  • When it is either too hot or too cold as the heart has to work harder to maintain body temperature
  • After eating a heavy meal because the digestive system uses a large blood supply in order too digest food. You should wait at least 3 hours after eating a big meal
  • After drinking excessive alcohol. This can increase the heart rate and blood pressure, and cause cause impotence in men
  • If you are wearing tight clothing you may get too hot and this could put extra strain on the heart.

Talking about sexual matters can sometimes be difficult and embarassing. Please remember the nurses caring for you and your partner are there to advise you. Please talk to them if you have any worries about sexual activity after your heart attack.