There are many considerations that patients must consider after any form of major plastic surgery. Whether it is when to shower or going back to work, swelling, pain and how one’s face and body looks will have some impact on all of life’s everyday activities during the recovery period. Understandably patients are anxious to resume much of their routinue and often as soon as possible.
In the past it was not an infrequent question, usually posed by a female patient, that wanted to know when they could resume sexual activity after surgery. Often asked almost embarrassingly and in a sheepish manner, they would say they were asking at their husband’s bequest. More rarely it would be a man asking and they, coincident or not, were usually divorced or single. Today, that question still comes up but it is a far less frequent one compared to work and other exercise concerns.
The obvious variables in how soon can one have sex after surgery is what type of plastic surgery did one have and what type of sexual activity is one referring to. While I would submit that the concept of sex to most patients in the weeks or first month after any form of major plastic surgery is likely to be incredibly low to non-existant on anyone’s priority list, the question nonetheless bears addressing.
Sex, like any form of exercise, increases blood flow and places potential stress on bodily tissues particularly the skin. Temporary increases in circulation can cause discomfort and may exacerbate swelling. Physical motion places sheering forces on incisions and may risk some skin wound separation. The concerns therefore become issues of comfort vs. actual harm to the surgery result. In the vast majority of procedures the issue is really one of comfort. I can think of only a single patient (lower buttock lift) where early sexual activity did cause partial separation of the incisions. I think the historic adage of ‘if it hurts don’t do it’, just like in any form of exercise, is a safe approach.
Interesting and perhaps not surprisingly, the when can I have sex after surgery question is more closely linked to body contouring surgery. In aesthetic facial surgery, one may look a bit rough but the body is unaffected and works just fine. But in common body procedures such as tummy tucks, breast augmentation and liposuction, one feels anything but fine for some time after surgery. In addition incision sites are in closer proximity and patients may be particularly concerned about pulling apart their incision and infection as well. I would have no concern about infection risk but one does need to be careful with incisions for up to six weeks after surgery. Incisions may appear well healed but their tensile strength (ability to be pulled apart) remains low.
The consideration of sex after surgery is an old one and predates any type of plastic surgery procedure. Childbirthing, c-sections and episotomies have raised this question long before and in a much more direct fashion. A little bit of common sense and comfort are good guidelines for knowing when and how to resume sex after your plastic surgery operation. One simple analogy that most patients can relate to is walking or running on treadmill. If you are ready and comfortable with that activity, then you are ready for sex.
Dr. Barry Eppley