Sex During Chemotherapy: Safety Precautions and More

Undergoing chemotherapy treatment is both a physical and an emotional experience. During this time, you may be wondering if it is safe to have sex. Everyone is different, but in general it is safe to have sex with chemotherapy, provided certain precautions are in place.

Since this decision is personal and depends on the type of cancer, it is essential to discuss any questions about sex and chemotherapy with your healthcare team before treatment. Remember, there is nothing to be embarrassed about and your team should create an environment in which you feel comfortable asking questions.

With that in mind, here are some factors to consider, tips for staying safe, and ways to deal with feelings for you and your partner.

There are many precautions you should take during chemotherapy treatment, including those related to sexual activity. Knowing when it is safe to have sex after chemotherapy depends on a variety of factors, including your physical health, emotional well-being, and comfort level.

According to a Review of articles 2014, sex is generally considered safe during chemotherapy treatment as long as safe sex practices are in place. These include preventing pregnancy, protecting against infection, and avoiding exposing a partner to chemotherapy in bodily fluids such as vaginal fluids or semen.

Ultimately, this is a decision that you must make with the advice of your doctor. That being said, there are some things to consider when determining whether it is safe to have sex while undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Risk of infection

If you have a low number of white blood cells or platelets because of certain types of chemotherapy, you may need to abstain from having sex.

According to OncoLink, an educational site supported by healthcare professionals in oncology, platelets below 50,000 put you at an increased risk of infection or bleeding. If your platelet count is below 50,000, your doctor may advise against having sex, especially since platelets can protect against bleeding and bruising during sex.

Type of cancer

If you have cancer of the genitals, urinary tract, or rectum, you may need more time to heal before sex. In this situation, your doctor will determine when it is safe for you to have sex.

Risk of pregnancy

According to National Cancer Institute, chemotherapy can cause changes in the eggs and sperm that can lead to birth defects, especially in the first 3 months of pregnancy. If you are in a sexual relationship or plan to have sex while on chemotherapy, be sure to use birth control.

If you want to get pregnant after treatment, the American Cancer Society recommends that you discuss with your doctor how long you will need contraception after you have finished chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy treatments and your partner

It is not known whether chemotherapy drugs can be passed to your partner through bodily fluids. For this reason, it is recommended that you use a condom for vaginal or anal sex or a dental dam for oral sex for at least 48 to 72 hours after treatment.

This can help prevent or at least minimize the passage of bodily fluids. If you have sex, talk to your doctor about the safety of removing fluids from your body during chemotherapy treatment.

Pain associated with sex

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause dyspareunia, recurring pain in the pelvis or genital area during sex. Talk to a healthcare professional about treatment options and how long this pain usually lasts.

Feelings associated with being sexually active

Even if you are physically allowed to have sex, you might not feel up to it. This is also true for your partner. Chemotherapy can cause fatigue and nausea. It can also have an impact on your desire to be intimate.

Be kind to yourself and take it easy. Only have sex when you are ready.

It is not uncommon to feel less interested in having sex during this time. The good news? There are other things you can do to promote privacy. Here is a list of helpful strategies and tips to support your partner if they don’t feel like having sex during this time.

Talk to each other

The first way to support your partner is to have an open and honest conversation. Give them time to share what they are feeling and ask them what you can do to support them. Then together, come up with ideas for staying intimate without having sex.

Plan intimate activities that appeal to them

This can include snuggling while watching a movie together or holding hands while walking.

Find new ways to show your love

Use this time to find new ways – or rekindle old ways – to show yourself love. Make it a point to hug and kiss more. Hold hands as often as you can and hug each other while sitting next to each other. If both people are up for it, take a bath together or take turns giving each other a massage.

Your body goes through a lot of changes during treatment. While your energy may be focused on making the physical changes needed to get better, you may also be wondering how to cope with and deal with the sexual changes that are occurring.

Talk to your doctor

One of the first things to try is to talk to your doctor about how you are feeling. They may have resources for you or be able to refer you to someone who can help you.

Consider individual therapy

Working with a psychologist or cancer counselor or sex therapist can provide tremendous support during this difficult time.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or too tired to leave home, consider online therapy. There are some great platforms that offer advice in various areas.

Try the couple consultation

Counseling is something you can do individually, as a couple, or both. Going into consultation with your partner can help with communication and generate ideas for being more intimate with each other.

If you identify as LGBTQIA +, it is essential that you speak with your healthcare team to get the correct information about having sex while on chemotherapy. Talking about your sexual orientation, gender, or how you identify yourself can help your doctor or other healthcare professional give you the support you need throughout the process.

If you feel that a member of your treatment team is not listening to your needs or concerns, or if you are uncomfortable talking to them, there are resources available. that you can use to help me.

The Human Rights Campaign has great resources like this on dating your doctor. In addition, the Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, has a “find a provider” tool that allows you to search for LGBTQIA + compatible healthcare professionals.

Chemotherapy treatments can temporarily interrupt your sex life. The good news is that with just a few precautions, new ways to express your love and affection, and the advice of your doctor, you can resume this part of your life when you’re ready.

Be sure to speak with your doctor or healthcare team about the possibility of having sex while on chemotherapy or if you are having problems after resuming sexual activity.


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Susan W. Lloyd

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