Kidney School™—a program of Medical Education Institute, Inc.

Module 11—Sexuality and Fertility

When you're tired all the time, it's tempting to just sit around and conserve your strength. But this leads to weak, flabby muscles and even more fatigue. Even though it sounds backwards, regular activity doesn't "use up" your energy. Instead, it helps you have more. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise and more fun if you do it with a friend. Talk with your doctor about joining a fitness club or other ways of safely staying active.

Raising your energy level through exercise will help you do more things you enjoy, including sex. To learn more about exercise read Module 12—Staying Active with Kidney Disease. Sleeping problems, which can also cause fatigue, are covered in that module, too.

My libido was affected when my lupus flared up the first time 11 years ago. My body ached all over, I was exhausted and was consumed by my illness, physically and emotionally. Since then, I have gone through periods of remission and then I feel better again, and my energy comes back. Kidney failure was one more 'challenge' for me. It was a doozy!

How you feel about yourself is very important! If you don't like what you see in the mirror, it is hard to feel 'sexy'. That's when the real challenge began for me, when I could watch my body change before my very eyes. I'd gain weight, then lose weight. I lost my muscle tone. I didn't feel attractive anymore, even though my husband was telling me I was. That called for a good therapist! Someone outside myself and my family to remind me that it really is what's on the inside that counts; that the core of my being was still very much the same as before my disease.

Exercise helps my libido too. Getting out and doing physical things like walking, riding a bike, and working out. If I sit still too long, everything starts to slow down, including my sex life.

Talking About Sex with a Partner

Even couples who know each other very well may feel uneasy talking about sex, or asking for things that would help them to enjoy it more. Pick a quiet time and place where you can have privacy. Use "I" statements to talk about what you feel without blaming.

If there are certain ways that you would prefer to be touched, it may work better to show rather than tell. Guide your partner's hand, and let him or her know how you would prefer to be touched.

Using "I" Statements
Problem Common Statement "I" Statement
Feeling unattractive "You think I'm ugly." "I feel like you don't find me attractive now."
Needing household help "You expect me to do everything myself." "I feel overwhelmed and need some help."
Money concerns "All you ever think about is money." "I feel worried about how we're going to pay our bills."

Jump-starting Desire

Regaining your interest in sex is easier if you think about sex. Spend some time each day focusing on all of your senses by noticing colors, textures, and smells around you. Get a massage with lotion or oil.

Exercise can help get your blood flowing and increase a healthy interest in sex. Aerobic and weight lifting exercise are both helpful. (Get your doctor's okay before starting an exercise program.)

Couples who want a happier sexual relationship should talk about it and look for ways to improve it. Some people have found that romantic music, soft lighting, pleasant aromas, books or movies with romantic or sexual content, or even sex toys can bring fun and excitement into a loving relationship.

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