Life after a stroke can be complicated as you recover. One of the areas that does not tend to get as much attention is sexuality after stroke. Sex is something that often goes by the wayside during the recovery, and often for long time after that.

Strokes rarely are a direct cause of a sexual problem. However the stress of the stroke can be extremely difficult for a married couple to handle. The stress will begin soon after the patient leaves the hospital. The stroke patient will find that his life is complicated by new challenges:

  • Learning to handle a confusing medical system
  • Dealing with insurance
  • Getting physical therapy
  • Coordinating doctors’ visits
  • Spending time learning how to handle the basics of living again: bathing and grooming, dining, and dressing

2004 Utility


Helpful bathroom products such as the HandHeld Portable Shower can help you to regain independence, which is a key part of being intimate with your partner again.

It is somewhat inevitable that all of these issues can have a detrimental effect on a romantic relationship. Also the physical and mental impairments from the stroke can do a lot to change how a couple interacts. No matter if you like it or not, there will be some changes in the sexual dynamics, post stroke. For example, some stroke survivors will deal with aphasia, or an inability to speak or to understand language, at least temporarily. Others may be affected by hemiplegia, or paralysis of one side of your body.

Intimacy Issues After Stroke

As mentioned above, the stroke normally does not cause sexual problems directly. Rather, there is a time of adaptation after the stroke when there is little sexual activity. Clinical studies have shown that this usually is temporary. One study determined that about 80% of men who had erectile dysfunction after stroke did regain function after a few months. However, a couple may have sexual dysfunction problems for a long time after a stroke. Here are a few common reasons:

  • Fear another stroke: Some patients do not wish to engage in sexual activity because they think the excitement could cause another stroke. This will very rarely happen! In a rare situation, a doctor can ask a heart patient to not engage in sex to avoid unnecessary physical demands on the heart. But there is rarely a reason from a stroke perspective to limit sex. Yet, 50% of patients recovering from stroke limit sex because they fear another stroke.
  • Decreased sexual desire: This often happens due to psychological factors, not physiological ones. Low self esteem, uncertainty about the relationship, worry about finances and difficulty accepting disability can cause this to happen.
  • Immobility: Some strokes can limit your mobility, so it is difficult to get into common sexual positions.
  • Depression: Depression can really dampen the mood after stroke.

Tips for Improvement

To improve your sex life after a stroke, remember to get sexual therapy. This is not always covered by insurance but it can really help. Also:

  • Have open communication with your partner about the problem.
  • Ask your doctor if your medications might be causing a libido problem.
  • Try to recover function, but have patience with yourself after your stroke. Recovering full use of your body, in many ways, will take time.