Sexuality and Kidney Transplant

Will my sexuality improve after a kidney transplant?

Many people who experienced sexual problems while on dialysis will find improvement after a kidney transplant. Your new kidney will help you feel better and have more energy. This will help to make your sexual life more enjoyable. In fact, for most people, sexual functioning should return to normal.

Are there some things that won't improve?

It's possible that some things may not get better after a kidney transplant.

  • You may still need to take blood pressure medications. Some blood pressure medicines can affect your desire and ability to have sex. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having problems. You may be able to change to a different blood pressure medicine that will have less effect on your sexuality.
  • Anti-rejection medicines can cause certain side effects such as weight gain, acne, bruising, and increased body hair. If a person feels less attractive due to these changes, he or she may feel less interested in sex. Talk with your doctor about how to diminish the side effects.

Is sexual intercourse safe for people with a kidney transplant?

Some patients and their partners may worry that sexual activity could harm the transplanted kidney. After receiving a transplant, it is important to wait until the scar has begun to heal. Once your doctor says it is all right to resume sexual activity, there is no reason to worry about damaging the transplanted kidney.

What if my ability to have sex doesn't improve as much as I'd hoped for?

Many people think that sexuality refers only to sexual intercourse. But sexuality includes many things, like touching, hugging, or kissing. It includes how you feel about yourself, how well you communicate, and how willing you are to be close to someone else.

Activities such as touching, hugging, and kissing provide feelings of warmth and closeness even if intercourse is not involved. Professional sex therapists can recommend alternative methods. Emotions can also affect sexual functioning, including stress, marriage problems, or depression.

If you are having sexual problems, talk to your healthcare professional. Don't be afraid to ask questions and seek answers. Many of these problems can be treated.

Can a woman who has had a transplant have a baby?

Fertility (the ability to conceive a child) tends to increase in both men and women after a transplant.

A woman who has had a successful transplant is likely to have regular menstrual periods and good general health. Therefore, getting pregnant and having a child is possible. But you should not become pregnant for at least one year after your transplant, even with stable kidney function. Some medicines that you take after a kidney transplant can cause problems to a developing baby. In some cases, pregnancy may not be recommended because there is a high risk to your life, the baby, or possible loss of the transplant.

Talk with your healthcare provider if you have a transplant and are thinking about getting pregnant. Your healthcare provider may need to change your medications so that it is safe for you to become pregnant. It is very important to use birth control until you and your healthcare provider have agreed that it is safe for you to become pregnant.

How might medicines taken by transplant patients affect an unborn child?

Many anti-rejection medicines are generally safe for a pregnant woman and her baby. However, there are some types that can affect pregnancy and the baby. These types should be avoided during pregnancy and stopped at least six weeks (or more) before becoming pregnant. Your doctor will likely monitor you after you've stopped, and let you know when it's safe to attempt pregnancy.

If you have a kidney transplant and are considering pregnancy, you should discuss it carefully with your transplant team and your kidney doctor. Your doctor may want you to switch to a different anti-rejection medicine.

Can a man who has a kidney transplant father a child?

Yes. Men who have a kidney transplant can father children. But some medications that are used after a transplant can reduce a man's ability to father children. If you have a transplant and would like to father a child, talk with your doctor about your medications.

What about birth control?

Your transplant team and healthcare provider can help you choose a method of birth control that is right for you. The diaphragm, sponge, and condom are usually acceptable means of birth control for many people, especially when used with spermicidal creams, foams or jellies. Many women who have high blood pressure should not use "the pill" (oral contraceptives) because this type of medicine can raise blood pressure and increase the chance of blood clots. Of course, practicing safe sex is important for everyone.

For more information:

Sexuality and kidney disease
Pregnancy and kidney disease

If you would like more information, please contact us.

© 2014 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.