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Embracing Yourself &
Life is a constant process of self discovery. For most of us, there will be periods of intense change and stretches of comfortable sameness. Cycles of confusion (the “why me?” moments), acceptance, anger, understanding, and everything in between.
So it’s no surprise then, that our identities might change. That one moment, a person might be wrapped up in the struggle of having a chronic illness and the next they feel totally invincible. Figuring out your sexuality in the context of your cystic fibrosis (CF) will take time. But know that it’s always okay to change your mind as you learn more about your preferences and boundaries.
Getting intimate on your terms
If you and your partner decide to take that next step in your relationship, clear communication and mutual respect is key. Some people aren’t romantically or sexually compatible and that’s okay. The most important thing is that you feel safe to express your needs when it comes to intimacy.
Intimacy vs. sex
It might be rare that you feel “in the mood” when you’re experiencing health complications. Finding other ways to engage in intimacy, whether that’s through physical touch or emotional closeness, can provide an important sense of connection and support in your relationship and in your life.
Sex can also be a fulfilling part of your relationship—or something you engage in for fun! As long as you are being careful and you’ve spoken to your CF care team about any sexual health concerns or watchouts, feel free to explore!
Sex, CF, and prioritizing your health
Protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Wearing a condom is an important part of maintaining sexual health—regardless of pregnancy concerns. Certain STIs can lead to dangerous complications if you have a compromised immune system, so it’s worth it to take the extra step to protect yourself. It is also a good idea to ask the person you are planning to have sex with about their sexual health history. Have they been tested for STIs recently?
Try not to let overwhelm or worry get in the way of you having a good time! The point is just to be proactive and keep open communication with your sexual partner as well as your care team.
Avoiding intimacy when your partner isn’t feeling well
Along with sex-specific infections, common germs can get in the way of sex and intimacy too. You may be more likely to come into contact with someone else’s germs if you are physically close to them, so make sure to ask your partner how they’re feeling before any close contact. Even if it’s “just a cold,” you’re better off keeping your distance until they’re feeling completely better. If you’re craving affection while they recover, try setting up a virtual date night (if they’re up to it, of course)!
How to talk about sex with your care team
Having a clinical “sex talk” might feel uncomfortable, but it’s important that your care team is able to appropriately monitor sexual health as it relates to your overall wellbeing. Consider asking them a few of the following questions:
Is contraception right for me?
Make sure you have a clear understanding about how CF or certain treatments you take may impact your fertility. It’s very important that your care team is aware of any forms of birth control you are considering. They can help you decide what makes sense based on your care plan and the current state of your health.
How can I make sex more comfortable?
While not everyone with CF will experience discomfort or pain during sex, some people might. If you have a sex drive, but you’re having trouble enjoying the physical act due to excessive coughing or trouble breathing, your care team may be able to give you suggestions to improve your experience.
Am I at a higher risk for any sexual health complications?
If you are sexually active, keep a close eye on any changes to your health. Prevention should be the first line of defense for STIs, but if you do develop an infection, you may need to be monitored for potential complications. More regular tests and screening may be recommended for those who have undergone an organ transplant as well.