COPD is a progressive respiratory illness that affects your breathing and can affect your sex life.

One of the main symptoms of COPD is shortness of breath, but symptoms such as coughing, heavy mucus production and fatigue can also put a damper on passionate moments.

Both your ability to get and keep an erection, to the speed at which you reach orgasm, can be affected by the limitation of oxygen to your lungs. For many people, these symptoms can get in the way of sex.

Just thinking about it can make you want to avoid sex. But it doesn't have to be like that.

Many people with COPD have happy and fulfilling sex lives with healthy expressions of intimacy. You might have sex less often but sexual activity — and fulfilment — is absolutely possible.

Here are some basic tips for making the most of your intimate time together:

  • be well rested before having sex
  • choose the time of day when you have more energy and when breathing is easiest.
  • avoid times when you've just eaten or had alcohol, or when it's hot or humid
  • clear your lungs beforehand by using your bronchodilator medicine before you have sex
  • try a side-by-side position. It can be less tiring
  • let your partner know if you need them to take a more active role
  • stop and rest if you have trouble breathing
  • take your time, take it easy, and enjoy one another.

Remember there’s more to intimacy than sex.  Kissing, cuddling, bathing together, massage, and touch are aspects of intimacy that are just as vital as intercourse. Being creative can also be fun.

Couples sometimes find that this is a time for them to connect on a whole new level as they need to think and talk about what they want to do sexually.

Talk to your partner and stay open-minded. Explore what you both like sexually. Touching, being touched and being close to someone helps a person feel loved and special.

Your doctor, nurse or physiotherapist may also be able to suggest ways to help manage breathlessness during sex

It’s important to keep in mind that not all sexual difficulties may be related to COPD, some may be due to side effects of medication or natural changes that occur with age. Discuss any sexual issues with your healthcare professional.