Develop the skills to have fulfilling physical intimacy — Understanding and overcoming challenges with RA.
Sex is a pretty physical activity. And, to #RAWarriors, it can seem unappealing. In fact, the research shows that many people with rheumatoid arthritis have had their sex lives negatively impacted.
A study based on responses from 169 people with RA found that nearly 50% of people “lost sexual desire during the course of their illness.” Additionally, 60% of people were dissatisfied with “the quality of their sex life.”
Unfortunately, it is a topic that doesn’t seem to be covered very often by medical professionals. As reported during a presentation at the Hospital for Special Surgery, only 12% of rheumatologists with large practices assessed sexual functioning.
Communication—Get on the Same Page
Sex is all about communication. Verbally, tangibly, emotionally—communication happens constantly during sexual activity. Verbal communication, though, is an excellent way to articulate your needs to a partner.
A good way to approach open and honest communication about rheumatoid arthritis and sex is explaining the disease. This includes having an open conversation with your RA treatment team about risks and concerns.
With your potential partner, it can help to talk about what the body experiences during flares, what are the triggers, and how long it takes to recover. From that conversation, different strategies and plans can be put in place to make both parties happy.
Bringing up the topic of sex might not be easy for some. If that’s the case, going to see a certified sex therapist could be a great option.
What Sex Is and What Sex Isn’t
Concerns about Sexual Activity
Sex is supposed to fun and not stressful. For #RAWarriors, it can add stress for a number reasons.
- Medications can cause low libido and/or vaginal dryness—
rheumatoid arthritis is more prevalent in women)
- Pain or stiffness in all parts of the body but particularly knees, hips, wrists, neck, etc.
- Fatigue can diminish desire
Ways to Make Sex Work for You
Sex does not have just have to be intercourse. With open and honest communication, finding other alternatives to pleasure can lead to more trust-building between partners—and can be a lot of fun. There are also specialty stores, online shops, and products to help partners reach their desired goals.
How to Prepare the Body for Sex
Making sure the body is well rested and agile can be crucial for #RAWarriors to have sex. Partners stating their desire to have sex in advance can be helpful as it allows for physical preparations.
Some measures to take before sex that could really help the body:
- Soaking in a hot bath
- Light massaging of the body—(get your partner to do it!)
- Warm up under an electric blanket—(maybe use an electric blanket during sex too)
Taking Care of Oneself First
As mentioned above, open and honest communication is key to a healthy sex life. It’s also a necessary skill to develop for self-care. Don’t be swayed by the popularity of sex in society.
Communication also extends to the self. Open and honest personal reflection can help you determine if it’s the right time to focus on sexual relationships.