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Treatments & Procedures

Resuming Sexual Activity after Bone Marrow Transplant

Sexuality is an important part of a loving relationship. Kissing, hugging, and touching are acts of love that may be resumed after you are discharged from the hospital.

Will my sexual desire change after my transplant?

You might notice a decrease in sexual desire after your bone marrow transplant. Factors that can have an impact on sexual desire include hormonal changes, excessive fatigue, cancer pain or treatment, or changes in your self-image.

As your hormone levels return to normal and as you regain your strength and endurance, your sexual desire should return to normal. If you have any concerns about the changes in your sexual desire, please discuss them with your doctor, nurse, or social worker.

When can I have sex again after my transplant?

We recommend having a platelet count of at least 50,000 per cubic millimeter before engaging in sexual intercourse. Because your immune system is now weaker than normal, you should avoid sexual practices that could result in oral exposure to feces.

To reduce your risk of exposure to sexually-transmitted infections such as CMV, HIV, hepatitis, and herpes, and because some medications can be passed to your partner during sexual activity, we recommend the use of latex condoms.

Will I have to take hormones after my transplant?

In women, chemotherapy and radiation therapy cause changes in ovarian function and decreased hormone levels. Because of these changes, it is common to receive a prescription for estrogen supplements after your transplant. Your health care provider will discuss your specific estrogen treatment with you.

In addition, some women stop having their menstrual cycles after a bone marrow transplant and might benefit from hormone replacement therapy to relieve menopausal symptoms.

What can I do to treat vaginal dryness?

Some women might experience vaginal dryness after bone marrow transplant because of the changes in hormone levels. Water-soluble lubricants such as K-Y® Jelly or Astroglide® can be useful during intercourse to decrease the discomfort of vaginal dryness.

Communicate with your partner

Talk to your partner. Tell your partner how you feel, especially if you have mixed feelings about sex after your bone marrow transplant. Encourage your partner to communicate with you, especially if you notice changes in your partner’s responsiveness. Communicating with your partner can help you both better understand your feelings and desires.

Take time for intimacy

If your health care provider has told you to limit your sexual activity, or if you are not in the mood for intercourse, remember to take time for intimacy with your partner. Being intimate does not require having intercourse. Love and affection can be expressed in many ways.

Enjoy your time together. You can take long, romantic walks, have candlelit dinners, or give each other back rubs.

Will I be able to have children after my bone marrow transplant?

The chemotherapy and radiation therapy you received as your preparative regime can affect your ability to have children (fertility) in the future.

Some men might experience a decreased or absent sperm count after cancer treatment. Some women stop having their menstrual cycles after a bone marrow transplant and begin menopause. However, do not assume you are unable to father a child or get pregnant unless this has been medically verified. You may request testing from your doctors.

Concerns about being biologically able to have children might be distressing, so it might help to seek counseling with your BMT social worker. It might help you to talk about fertility loss and its impact on you and your partner or future partner.

If you do wish to start a family after cancer treatment, talk to your health care provider about the timing of a pregnancy after treatment.

Importance of birth control

Even though infertility (the inability to have children) might occur after cancer treatment, it is still possible to get pregnant, so both men and women should use birth control after treatment. Birth control is important after your bone marrow transplant because the medicines you will be taking might be harmful to a developing fetus. Follow your health care provider’s recommendations on the appropriate method of birth control to use.

Reference

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/15/2011...#10248