Having sex when you have a lung condition

Find out about contraception, breathlessness during sex, how to talk to your partner about sex and comfortable sexual positions for people with lung conditions.

Could my contraception cause symptoms?

If you or someone in your family has suffered from blood clots (like pulmonary embolism), the combined pill might not be right for you. Your healthcare professional should talk to you about any risks and other options that could work for you. 

If you have asthma, your symptoms might be triggered by a material called latex. Latex is often used to make condoms. You can stay safe by using latex-free condoms instead. Find out how to get them for free on the NHS.

How can I talk to my partner about sex?

Try to talk to your partner openly about any difficulties you’re having, like managing your breathlessness or supporting your partner.  Let your partner know what’s going well too.  

You could say:

  • Can we try out new positions that might help my breathlessness? 
  • I feel too tired to have sex tonight, could we cuddle instead? 
  • I need to take regular breaks while we’re having sex. 

Brook have more information about how to talk to your partner about sex

How can I manage my symptoms during sex?

Just like other physical activity, sex can make your symptoms worse. There are a lot of things you can do to manage your symptoms during sex.

Manage your breathlessness

It’s okay to get a bit out of breath when you’re doing any type of physical activity, as long as your breathing goes back to normal quickly. This includes sex. Our breathing techniques can help you manage your breathlessness. You can use these breathing exercises during sex if you need to. 

If you have asthma

It’s okay to breathe faster and more deeply during exercise, but breathlessness is a symptom of an asthma attack. Find out what to do in an asthma attack

Manage your cough

The best thing to do if you need to cough during sex is to speak to your healthcare professional. They can help you work out the cause of the cough. 

Coughing during sex could be a sign that your asthma is not as controlled as it could be. Find out what to do if your asthma symptoms are getting worse.

You might need to clear your chest of sputum more effectively. Read more about treatments for bronchiectasis

Stay active

Sex is a type of physical activity. It might make you breathe faster and can raise your heart rate and blood pressure for a short time. Pulmonary rehabilitation could reduce your breathlessness and help you control your symptoms. 

Make sure to pace yourself, like you would with other types of exercise. You could try taking it slow, changing positions, or taking turns with sexual activity.

Think about where you have sex

Where you have sex is important. Things like dust, smoke and heavy fragrances can affect your breathing. Read our information about how to improve the air quality in your home.

Think about when you have sex

When you have sex is important. You could try to plan sexual activity so that you’re having sex when you feel your best. For example, you and your partner could have sex in the morning if your symptoms are worse at night.

Try new things 

Try different positions until you find something that feels right for you and your partner. 

You could also try using sex toys. For example, using a vibrator or massager may be a good way to pleasure a partner without using too much energy. 

Stop smoking

If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your breathlessness is to quit. We have more information to help you quit smoking.

Talk to your GP about how your symptoms are affecting you

“It may not be easy for you to talk about your sex life with a healthcare professional,” says Respiratory Nurse Specialist Caroline. “But if you’re having problems, you owe it to yourself and your partner to try to get the right support.”

You might find it easier if you have some questions ready. You could ask:

  • My breathlessness is affecting sex with my partner. How can I prevent this?
  • What breathing techniques can I use to manage my breathlessness during sex?
  • How can I manage my symptoms better? 

What position should I have sex in?

Sex is about enjoyment and fun, so try different positions to find ones that feel right for you and your partner. 

When you’re having sex, try to avoid: 

  • positions that put pressure on your chest  
  • activity that requires you to use your mouth a lot, like oral sex or kissing for a long time  
  • lying completely flat on your back. 

Positions that use less energy may be also more comfortable. For example, holding yourself up by your arms for a long time might use too much energy. Here are some positions that you could try:

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Try lying on your sides facing each other.
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Try lying on your sides not facing each other.
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In this position, it might be better for you to be on the bottom if you have a lung condition. This usually requires less activity. Try not to lie completely flat too, you could use pillows to make yourself more comfortable.
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Try the person with a lung condition kneeling on the floor, bending over with their chest resting on the bed.
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Try the person with a lung condition sitting on the edge of the bed with their feet on the floor. The other can kneel on the floor in front.
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Hugging and kissing are great ways to show affection without using too much energy. You could also try other things that require less energy, like massage or touching each other’s genitals (mutual masturbation).

Get support

Call our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

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