Sex after a heart attack: Martin and Louise's story

Martin and Louise Tailford

For Martin and Louise Tailford, a heart attack when Martin was just 33 has affected every area of their lives. Two years on, things are much better.

Martin Tailford felt fit and healthy until he had a heart attack on Christmas morning 2011. Martin, now 36, a driving instructor from Norwich, was in hospital for 11 days. Louise, 32, a scientist, says: “Being apart was stressful, and we weren’t able to be intimate during Martin’s time in hospital.”

Having sex after a heart event can cause anxieties, but there’s no need to worry. Sex is highly unlikely to trigger a heart attack, and can be good for your general health and wellbeing.

Sex was less frequent and required a lot more planning

Martin and Louise tried to have sex the day he came out of hospital but found it difficult. Martin says: “Louise had been alone for 10 days – we didn’t feel emotionally connected, and I felt like I looked terrible.”

“I was underneath and I didn’t really tolerate having her weight on me. Louise was quite upset.”

Martin says their sex life remained difficult for at least a month. “Sex was less frequent and required a lot more planning.”

The heart attack left Martin with heart failure. Last year he was fitted with a pacemaker and defibrillator, which helped, and he may be considered for a heart transplant in future.

He’s been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a genetic condition that led to a coronary artery dissection which caused the heart attack.

The experience has affected not just Martin but also Louise. “Martin takes warfarin, so bruises more easily, and the bruises can be upsetting, as is the sight and feel of the pacemaker and scar,” she says. “Stress and worry reduces my libido. It was hard to go from a ‘nurse’ role to lover.”

Our relationship is not based exclusively on sex, but sex is the glue that holds everything else together

Contraception is also a concern, as the couple do not want more children. (Their five-year-old son has been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, but is healthy so far.)

The couple have found ways to deal with some of their issues, such as wearing a t-shirt to cover scars and bruising. They use sexual positions which are less tiring for Martin and have tried different methods of contraception – Martin has been advised not to have a vasectomy because of the strain the anaesthetic might place on his heart, so Louise has had a coil fitted.

The couple have found that good communication helps a lot. As Martin says: “Our relationship is not based exclusively on sex, but sex is the glue that holds everything else together.”

Louise adds: “Martin’s heart attack has affected our whole life, sex life included. But it does make us appreciate each other and everything that we have.”

Read Tom and Suzy's story of dealing with erectile dysfunction, angina and other heart problems later in life

Read advice from an expert, watch our videos and learn where to get help

Martin's advice on sex when you have a heart condition

“Begin earlier. If you want to have sex at midnight, start at 3pm with a text message – you need to build the mood.”

“Don’t be disappointed if things don’t go well initially. It’s not the other person’s fault, and it’s not your fault if you can’t perform. It’s not because they don’t find you sexually attractive any more.”

Louise's advice on sex when your partner has a heart condition

“Worrying about your partner’s health can put you off, but it can make you realise the importance of the ‘here and now’, so make the most of it.”

Marfan syndrome

For information on Marfan syndrome, visit the Marfan Association website or on 01252 810 472.

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