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Sexuality and sickle cell anemia

Sickle Cell and Marriage: The Challenges of Sex and Intimacy

Sickle cell disease (SCD) can make sex and intimacy a challenge for couples. Pain, other physical complications as well as stress, and mental and emotional issues can impact sexual health.

Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction is when a person is unable to find satisfaction from sexual activity due to physical or mental barriers to sex. This challenge can sometimes be one of the complications of SCD

How can SCD Cause Sexual Dysfunction?

A husband and/or wife may have SCD complications that can result in sexual dysfunction. Women who experience frequent chronic pain or pain crises have a high probability of experiencing pain during sex. Opioid pain medicines can also lead to pain during sex due to altered hormone levels.

Another cause of pain is priapism. It is a complication men with SCD go through. It refers to a painful, unwanted, and prolonged erection. Sexual activity can also trigger episodes of priapism. Repeated episodes of this condition can cause erectile dysfunction and permanent damage.

Sexual dysfunction in some people with SCD can be caused bymental health issues like stress, anxiety, and depression because they can all limit sexual desire and performance.

Barriers like these often impact attitudes about sex. Couples living with SCD report about sexual activity limitations like:

·         Lack of spontaneity during sex because they have to plan sexual life around the SCD

·         Limited sexual positions because of pain

·         Insufficient enjoyment due tothe distraction they experience while monitoring themselves during sex

·         Feeling that they lack control over sexual health


How Can Couples with SCDEnjoy a Safe and Healthy Sex Life?

There are many precautions to help a couple have safe and healthy sex. If you have a child with SCD, encourage him/her to ask you and your doctor any questions about sex. Check out these tips for a safe and healthy sex life:

Use Normal Birth Control Methods

1.      Normal pills are okay for women but you need your doctor’s advice against using pills containing estrogen and progesterone hormones because they are linked to blood clots.

2.      Normal contraceptive techniques like condoms are good for the man if he or the wife is taking hydroxyurea. This prevents the drug from being exposed to bodily fluids.


See a Doctor when Complications Keep Coming Back

Ifyou are facing sexual challenges, talk to your doctor to help you improve your sexual experience by maintaining a safe and healthy sex life. The doctor can perform tests, help you adjust, or suggest possible treatments to remedy the problem and also prevent or manage episodes of priapism at home.

Communicate with Your Partner Early Enough 

Share information about your sexual health with your partner to help him/her understand the way SCD affects you. That can improve your sex life and intimacy.

Consulta Counselor or Therapist

SCD has its mental aspects that are linked to sexual dysfunction and it is not your fault. With a therapist’s help, you can cope with stress and anxiety and prepare for future challenges. Such sessions are good for both of you as they improve communication and intimacy. Request your doctor to direct you where to find resources or join support groups where sexual health and intimacy for people with SCD is discussed.





Photo of the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, New Zealand.

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