Hepatitis C: An In-Depth Guide

Low sex drive (loss of libido)

The lowering of one's sex drive is sometimes called loss of libido. Sexuality is not only about physical activity, but it also includes your feelings of attractiveness, your desire for emotional closeness and your openness to sensory experiences. There's a general acceptance that there's no way to sexual fulfillment.

Cause

Living with Hep C may cause changes to your sexual activity, but it does not mean you have to give up intimacy or a satisfying sexual relationship. The tips below may help you manage the changes to intimacy and sexuality imposed on you by Hep C.

Treatment

If concerned about a change in your sex life, try the following process to resolve the situation:

  • Identify the change. Is it, for example, your level of desire, your sense of being attractive, tension within the relationship, your mood or the onset of physical pain?
  • Ask yourself whether or not these changes are something you need to worry about.
  • If yes, ask yourself whether or not you're willing to talk to someone about it.
  • If yes, ask yourself who would be the most appropriate person. That could be your partner, a trusted friend, your family doctor, a nurse or doctor working in your local hospital's sexual health program (if available) or a therapist.

Tips

Pain: Before sex, try to reduce your pain by taking a warm bath or doing a few light stretching exercises.

Fatigue: Plan for sex by pacing your day's activities so that you're well rested.

Depression: Depressed people tend not to see themselves as sexy, and this can reduce the desire for physical intimacy. Complicating matters is the fact that antidepressant medication may reduce interest and/or the ability of a man to get and keep an erection. If this is a side effect for you, talk to your doctor about changing the dosage of your medication. Your doctor may also consider adding an erectile dysfunction drug that increases blood flow to the penis, resulting in an erection when sexually stimulated. Women may find the application of a water-soluble lubricant will take care of vaginal dryness, which may also be a side effect caused by peg-interferon.

Reluctance to discuss sex with your partner: Your relationship will likely be strained if a decrease in sexual activity is accompanied by a reluctance to discuss the changes. Your partner may take it as a personal rejection. Talking with your partner about your desires, pleasures and fears around sex can really help to reduce tension. Your partner may see this as an invitation to talk about his or her own feelings and concerns about sex. For example, your partner may have stopped initiating sex, fearing that physical contact will be too painful for you.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself before talking with your partner about sex:

  1. Has Hep C caused any changes in my attitude or emotions towards sex?
  2. Where on my body do I enjoy being touched and what areas should be avoided because they're just too sore?
  3. Are there sexual activities that are less or more pleasurable since I was diagnosed?
  4. Are there new things, such as sexual positions, that I want to try?
  5. Does my partner worry about having sex with me?