Easy Sex Positions for Couples With COPD

Tips for Conserving Energy and Alleviating Breathing Restriction

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive respiratory disorder that can affect your ability to function as well as your sex life. Shortness of breath (dyspnea), fatigue, coughing, and excessive mucus are just some of the things that can affect intimacy and put a strain on your sexual performance.

Having COPD doesn't mean that your sex life is over, but it may suggest that you need to adjust your sex practices to accommodate your physical limitations.

One of the ways to do so is to try new positions during sex. The aim is to conserve energy while placing the body in a position where the diaphragm and intercostal muscles are neither constricted nor compressed.

Alleviating Breathing Restriction

Breathing is both a voluntary and involuntary act. Because the lungs themselves don’t contain any muscles, they rely on others, like the diaphragm and intercostals, to help. Together, these muscles help compress and relax the chest and lungs so that a person can inhale and exhale.

How you position yourself can affect greatly affect this function. Pressing your knees to your chest, for example, can constrict breathing. Lying on your side, by contrast, removes nearly all resistance to respiration, including that of gravity.

The same principles can be applied to sex positions. By experimenting (and "priming" yourself with a bronchodilator ​right before sex), you can avoid bronchospasms and other COPD symptoms that can stand in the way of good sex.

The following seven positions are designed for heterosexuals but can be adapted to same-sex couples, as well:

The Spoon Position

Spoon Position
Artwork by Carolyn Russell

The spoon position is excellent if one or the other partner is wearing an oxygen cannuls. For this position, the couple would lie on their sides, one facing away from the other. The man partner would enter from behind.

To get the most out of this position, you should allow your legs and arms to overlap and intertwine with your partner's.

The Cross Position

The Cross Position
Artwork by Carolyn Russell

The cross position is great for oxygen-dependent persons as the couple's heads are far enough apart so that the cannula is never in the way.

For this position, the man would lie slightly to one side with his lower leg bent and top leg straight. His arms can either be stretched out, or he can hold his partner's legs with his hands. The woman, meanwhile, would lie on her back, perpendicular to the man, with her legs draped over his pelvic region. Pillows can be used for support.

Side-to-Side Position

Side to Side Position
Artwork by Carolyn Russell

Perhaps the greatest intimacy can be found with the side-to-side position. For this position, the partners would lie on their sides, face to face, with their legs and arms intertwined.

To accommodate intercourse, the man would need to be slightly lower than his partner. Pillows can be used by both for support.

Woman-on-Top Position

Woman on Top Position
Artwork by Carolyn Russell

The woman-on-top position works best if the male partner has COPD as the woman will be doing most of the work. For the position, the man would lie flat on his back while the woman sits comfortably on top, knees bent and shins flat on the bed surface. A pillow can be placed under the man's legs for support.

The Intersection Position

The Intersection Position
Artwork by Carolyn Russell

The intersection position provides a unique angle for penetration which many couples find appealing. It also allows for easy access to oxygen if the female partner has COPD.

For this position, the woman would lie on her side while the man positions himself between her top and bottom legs, which are opened like scissors. The woman can either use a pillow or her free arm to prop her head up.

The Scissors Position

The Scissors Position
Artwork by Carolyn Russell

Another great position for oxygen-dependent persons is the scissors position. This one is slightly different than the Intersection position in that both partners have their legs opened like scissors, not just one.

For this position, the man would lie on his side with his legs opened to accept the woman, who is also on her side with her legs splayed apart. Pillows can be positioned around the lower back, head, and shoulders for added support.

Kneeling Face-to-Face Position

Kneeling Face to Face Position
Artwork by Carolyn Russell

A supported variation of the standard missionary position, the kneeling face-to-face position works best if the woman has COPD as the man does most of the work.

For this position, the woman would lie comfortably propped against a stack of pillows so that she is practically sitting up. The man would enter from the front on bended knee. This position works especially well when using oxygen.

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Article Sources

  1. Heijdra YF, Dekhuijzen PN, van Herwaarden CL, Folgering HT. Effects of body position, hyperinflation, and blood gas tensions on maximal respiratory pressures in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseThorax. 1994;49(5):453–458. doi:10.1136/thx.49.5.453