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Thrive On


Personal intimacy on dialysis
Intimacy is a profound human need. A need that doesn’t change—no matter what your age or if you have chronic kidney disease. The desire for sex, on the other hand, may ebb and flow at times for many reasons. Medications, general fatigue or depression may be some of the reasons why you’re not in the mood for sex as often as you used to be.

Sex and dialysis can go together

Dialysis can present its own challenges when it comes to sex and intimacy. However, understanding common concerns or questions can help you feel more relaxed about being intimate.

Intimacy and vascular access 

Talk with your doctor or nurse if you have any worries that having sex will hurt your fistula, graft or catheter. Ask how you can protect your access during sex. Basically, you need to avoid putting direct pressure on a fistula or graft. And you need to avoid pulling or tugging on a catheter.

Intimacy and peritoneal dialysis (PD) 

It may take time getting used to having fluid in your belly. If it bothers you, ask your PD nurse if you can have sex between a drain and a fill, with or without a cycler. You can have sex while on a cycler—just be sure to place the line in such a way that it doesn’t get crimped.

Lack of desire 

There can be many reasons you don’t feel like having sex. This can be caused by something physical like anemia, medications or other conditions like diabetes or fatigue. It can also be psychological. It’s good to be checked by your doctor—to figure out the underlying cause—even if you’re content with not having sex.

Wanting more

If you want to have more sex—or better sex—than what you’re having, talk to your doctor, nurse or social worker about that, too. These specialists can advise you on both medical and psychological issues that could be getting in the way. Know that erectile dysfunction (ED) is very common in men on dialysis—as is sexual dysfunction (difficulty with arousal or orgasm) for women undergoing treatment. Remember, your healthcare team members are used to counseling those on dialysis about sex and intimacy, so don’t be embarrassed to speak up.
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Talking with your partner

You might be surprised by how many people don’t think about talking to their partner about sex. Close couples may think they’re on such a good wavelength that it’s not necessary. But discussing what you need from intimacy and sex and listening to your partner’s needs can deepen intimacy.
Couple talking with one another.

5 ways to reignite that spark

  1. Think about intimacy.
    Think about sex. Imagine everything you love about it.
  2. Explore your senses.
    Explore your senses: touch, sight, taste, hearing and smell. They all add to the pleasures of sex and intimacy.
  3. Make a date.
    Make a regular date with your partner to be intimate in some way. It can be as simple as holding hands or snuggling while watching a movie together.
  4. Put on some music.
    Put on some romantic music to enhance your mood.
  5. Take turns with your partner.
    Take turns with your partner massaging each other with scented oil.
Talk to your dietitian.
Did you know?
Many people on dialysis have intimacy issues—your doctor can help. If you haven’t already, schedule a time to talk about it.