Women want their doctors’ help in overcoming fears about having sex after suffering a heart attack, according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers from the University of Chicago surveyed 17 women who were selected from a trial called TRIUMPH (Translational Research Investigating Underlying Disparities in Acute Myocardial Infarction Patients’ Health Status). This is a large study analyzing sexual outcomes following myocardial infarction (heart attacks).
The women were questioned about their sex lives before and after they suffered a heart attack. All of the women questioned were either married or in long-term relationships.
The results of the study revealed that the majority of women and their partners were afraid to have sex following a heart attack.
The research revealed that although only a small proportion of the women spoke to their doctors about their sex life following a heart attack, the majority of them said they were unhappy with the quality of information they received.
Emily Abramsohn of the University of Chicago, says:
“Most women don’t have discussions with their doctors about resuming sex after a heart attack, even though many experience fear or other sexual problems.”
The study revealed that the majority of women feel their cardiologist is the most appropriate member of the medical team to talk to them, while some feel their doctor or gynecologist could also be helpful in addressing sexual issues.
However, Abramsohn says that cardiologists could ease concerns about sex after a heart attack by initiating the conversation and talking openly with their patients about what to expect.
She adds that this discussion should start when the woman is still in the hospital, with other members of the healthcare team providing guidance throughout recovery.
“It is important for you and your partner to know you’re not alone in your confusion and fear about returning to sex after a heart attack. If your doctor isn’t giving you information to help you feel more comfortable about it, it’s important for you to ask them for it.”
The study authors conclude that it is apparent that the lack of patient-physician communication, rather than the lack of information about safety, presents a major barrier to improving sexual outcomes for women following heart attacks.
The researchers add:
“Myocardial infarction studies have repeatedly shown that sexual activity after MI is relatively safe.
“Studies consistently show that middle‐aged and older women and men value their sexual life and regard sex as relevant for health and appropriate for discussion with a physician, yet major gaps in communication – especially for women – persist. Recommendations for how the topic of sex should be handled after MI varies across studies.”