Sex and living with pulmonary fibrosis

Sex is an important part of life for many people but you may worry that it will make your symptoms worse.

Managing breathlessness

Because pulmonary fibrosis can leave you short of breath, it may affect your sex life. But just like any other physical activity, you can use your usual breathing control techniques, to help your breathing return to normal.

You can find out more about breathlessness and breathing exercises here.

Talking to your partner

Talk to your partner about your concerns. If you have an honest conversation, you’ll both be more relaxed about being intimate. And you can always get advice from your doctor or health care professional.

Five tips to help you enjoy your sex life

1. Keep fit

Sexual activity requires energy and, as with all physical activity, you’ll use your heart, lungs and muscles. You might need to breathe more frequently, and your heart rate and blood pressure might go up for a short time. But this the same for everyone, and they will return to normal levels quickly.

Remember that some changes in your sex life are just part of getting older and not because of your lung condition. Staying active will help – see more about exercising.

2. Choose the right time

Have sex when you’re rested and feeling comfortable – don’t assume that you have to wait till bedtime. Think about when you take your medication so that you know when it is most effective. Wait for a couple of hours after your main meal and avoid alcohol or limit your drinking.

If it helps, plan ahead, but don’t let this stop you from being flexible too. And don’t forget there’s lots of less physical ways to be intimate with your partner like kissing, hugging and touching.

3. Choose a good place

Make sure your environment is relaxing and free of dust and other things which may make breathing more difficult. Keep the temperature comfortably warm and either make sure it’s nice and quiet or play some music to shut out everyday sounds.

4. Manage your symptoms

You might want to try clearing your chest before you have sex or avoid having sex in the morning, when many people tend to cough more.

Some medications can cause a decline in your sex drive or sexual function, and others, such as antibiotics, can increase the risk of thrush. If you think any of this may be a problem for you, ask your health care professional for advice. And talk to your health care professional if you’re thinking of taking medication to treat erectile dysfunction.

Some people find that oxygen increases stamina, so if you have been prescribed oxygen therapy, you can use it during sex. Use the same setting as you would normally use while undertaking any other physical activity.

5. Try something different

Try different positions to find which ones work best for you and your partner. Don’t be afraid to try different ways to express your affection and tell each other what feels good. You can read useful examples of different positions from the British Lung Foundation.

Information provided by Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis (APF) is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It’s intended as general information only. APF is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any loss or damage suffered by users resulting from the information published on

Further information for carers:

Your essential caring guide (PDF)
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