Sex life and impact on relationships after a stroke

A serious illness like stroke can put a huge strain on relationships because of changed roles and responsibilities. Stroke can also have an effect on people’s emotions making them more irritable or emotional and likely to take their frustrations out on those closest to them (see ‘Emotional impact of stroke’).

Many people felt that their partners had been very supportive and stuck by them despite their stroke illness and impairments. A few felt that the stroke had actually brought them closer together and made them more appreciative of each other.

One man had been worried that his wife might leave him but a psychologist had helped him realise that she still cared for him.

Was worried his wife might leave him but a psychologist helped him understand that this was…

Age at interview 52

Gender Male

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A few people felt that the stroke had caused the problems in their relationships. A woman who had been the major wage earner found that losing her job and health put a huge strain on their marriage but they were able to resolve things through Relate counselling.

Others had not been able to sort out their differences and had parted. Whilst most found this difficult others thought it was for the best.

A common fear following a stroke is that sex will bring on another stroke. There is, however, no medical evidence for this and no reason why you cannot begin to have sex as soon as you feel well enough after your stroke.

Some people that we spoke to said that they continued to have an active sex life after their stroke. Others, however, said that they had sex less often although some put this partially down to their increasing age. Most said that their partner had been very understanding and that a good relationship did not always need to involve sex.

One young woman explained that her relationship had ended because of lack of intimacy but she was still good friends with her ex-partner and he gave her a lot of practical and emotional support.

Some had noticed a definite reduction in their libido which they put down to tiredness, medication and feeling less attractive because of disability. One man had found he could not get an erection and thought this was probably due to a combination of blood pressure tablets and reduction in blood flow due to diabetes.

Since he had the stroke he has experienced problems getting an erection and puts this down to…

Age at interview 82

Gender Male

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Loss of sensation on one side of the body sometimes took the enjoyment out of intimate contact and a few people who had post stroke pain found it difficult to be touched by another person. Paralysis could also make it difficult to people to get into a comfortable position.

Find sex less enjoyable because of the numbness on one side of her body.

Age at interview 66

Gender Female

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Finds intimate contact difficult because of central post stroke pain makes her sensitive to touch.

Age at interview 64

Gender Female

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Younger people found that contraception became an issue. Women who have had a stroke are advised not to take the pill as there is an increased risk of stroke with women using the pill. Similarly women at menopause age should not use HRT. Some younger women we spoke to had also been advised not to have children and others had decided that they were not physically capable of looking after a child. It is likely that there will be no reason why it should be any more difficult to conceive or continue with a normal pregnancy and give birth to a normal baby after a stroke, however, some less common types of stroke may result in an increased risk of stroke in future pregnancies. If you are planning to have more children or have any concerns, you should discuss it with a medical professional.

Messages to others about stroke

We asked the people we interviewed what advice they would give to other people who have had a stroke. Here is what they said. Your...