Sex After Heart Attack: Consult Your Wife's Doctor

Q. My wife had a heart attack a month ago. How soon can we resume our sex life? We are both senior citizens.

A. You want to know something of medical importance, and it is up to you to ask the doctor if your wife won't. I would let her know you are interested, and maybe she will initiate the discussion with her doctor.

A cardiologist of my acquaintance tells me that he routinely instructs heart attack survivors--and other heart patients--about the best course for them to follow in resuming sex after illness. He does not wait for the patient to speak up on this subject, he says, because most patients are shy about bringing it up. Other doctors I know are shy about bringing it up themselves.

Maybe people should curb their impulses to talk sex in crowded restaurants, but between doctors and patients on this subject, there is still too much shyness. A doctor has many patients, many duties, and may not want to get into sex advice when more urgent medical matters are putting him under pressure. Many physicians turn over routine post-procedural instruction giving to nurses or other health professionals. Some patients find it easier to ask a nurse about sex than to ask a doctor. But the subject should be brought up, and the person most affected is the patient or spouse hoping for a return to healthful life.

Q. Please stop advising that masturbation is harmless. It is more stimulating than normal intercourse and can ingrain responses that prevent normal sexual functioning.

A. Modern sexual information is that self-gratification has no effect on normal functioning and often accompanies it and that any unlikely ill effect of it is temporary, usually self-correcting.

Q. I never discussed sexuality with my children, and I find that my daughter is not discussing it with her teen-agers either. I would like to break this family tradition by supplying the kids with some helpful reading matter on the subject. Please forward any pamphlets you have.

A. I have no stock of pamphlets for children or teen-agers, but you can get my book for teen-agers entitled "First Love," published by Warner Books, through most bookstores.

Besides my books, you will find other trustworthy and reliable books on sex written and edited for young people in decent bookstores and public libraries. Your daughter may not be receptive to your giving the books to your grandchildren. Grandma sometimes is more open to information than Mom. Don't push them on her; show them to her, say that it seems to you to be wise to give young people reliable information when so much harmful misinformation is reaching them from every side.

Also suggest that if they see the family offering the information, they may be more open to their adult relatives about their doubts and difficulties. This is important--for parents to feel the children's confidence in them and for the children to have that confidence.

If you encounter resistance, just let it be known that you have the books and in your house it is anybody's privilege to read them. It often happens that teen-agers do not want to discuss sex with elders. They may have the idea that they know about sex, that talking to elders is childish, and all you can do is say that really solid information on the subject is valuable and that there is new information for everyone, grandmothers as well as youngsters, coming out all the time. Keep the books openly in your home, where the resisters will probably pick them up sooner or later.

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