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Taking ED pills after prostate cancer surgery: tips for success

Close up of man about to take a pill

So, you’ve decided to try erectile dysfunction (ED) pills. When you’re just getting started, there’ll likely be a period of trial and error as you work out how best to use the pills, if the brand prescribed by your doctor works to your satisfaction and if there are any side effects that really bother you. If this is your first time using these pills, you doctor may try different brands to check which one works best.
Here are some tips and suggestions to improve your chances of a successful experience when using erection pills.

Will I get an erection as soon as I take an ED pill?

It’s not like turning on a switch. ED pills will only give you an erection when you are aroused (turned on). And arousal usually involves your mind (thoughts of sex) and your body (physical touch). So, you’ll need to be with your partner and having foreplay.

All ED pills will work best about 90 minutes after taking them, and erections will last about as long as they did before your surgery. Erections should soften after you climax in the same way your erections soften after climax when you are not using pills.

If you have an erection that lasts longer than 4 hours, see a doctor right away. This could be dangerous.

    If you have an erection that lasts longer than 4 hours, see a doctor right away. This could be dangerous. A number of things affect how well ED pills work. Here are some tips for success:

  • Plan ahead you'll need to wait for 1.5 to 4 hours after taking ED pills before you have sexual activity.

  • Eat ahead – ED pills work best on an empty stomach. Wait at least 2 hours after eating before you take them.

  • Avoid alcohol – drinking alcohol with ED pills makes them less effective.

  • Engage in sexual activity – ED pills only work if you are sexually stimulated (aroused) or thinking sexy thoughts.

Choosing the ED pill that works best for you

Keep a journal of your experience after taking the medication. This may seem silly, but it can help make sure you are taking the erection pill that works best for you.

  • Track your erections – note the quality of your erection after taking the pill and how long it took for your penis to become erect. Add anything else that seems relevant to you.

  • Keep track of side effects – this can help you choose an erection pill with the fewest side effects.

The notes will help you and your doctor keep track of your responses to different ED pills. The notes will also help you decide if changes to your medication are needed.

I like sex to feel natural and spontaneous. Is this possible when taking ED pills?

Sex after prostate cancer treatment can feel less natural and spontaneous when you have to plan everything ahead of time. So, it’s easy to see why even taking something as simple as a pill can really interfere with the process of engaging in sexual activity. You’re not alone. Struggling with the loss of naturalness and spontaneity is one of the most common complaints from couples using ED pills.

The best way to overcome these barriers is to work as a team. Every couple is different. We can’t "prescribe" a right way or a wrong way of coping with the loss of naturalness and spontaneity. You will need to figure out what works best for the two of you.

Should I tell my partner that I’m using ED pills?

We get it. It can be awkward to say you’re taking the ED pill and equally awkward to ask if you should take a pill. It can also be awkward for your partner to ask that you take a pill. None of this seems very natural or spontaneous.

The important thing is for both of you to talk at the start about how you’d like it to play out.

  • You could decide it’s best to discuss taking the pill before any sexual activity, in order to ensure you’re both have the same understanding and avoid mis-intention or let down.

  • Perhaps your partner prefers to leave the decision to take the pill with you so they can enjoy a more spontaneous experience.

  • You could have a go at both these approaches to see which one works best.

Change up your routine for sex

All the planning required for taking ED pills can feel like there is little room to make things interesting.

    Here’s a suggestion — try the ‘morning routine’:

  • Set your alarm for one hour before your usual awake time.

  • When the alarm goes off, take the pill.

  • Reset your alarm for one hour and return to sleep.

  • When your alarm goes off, try these:

    - engage in self-stimulation or masturbation

    - have a little morning rendezvous with your partner

    - retreat to the shower (the warm water helps increase blood flow to your penis)

The morning routine helps avoid restrictions related to food and alcohol, and you should be relaxed and well rested after a good night’s sleep.

How often should I be taking ED pills?

There is no "right" number of times to take ED pills. And more pills are not necessarily better for recovering your natural erections. Instead, think of it this way:

  • Try to re-engage in sexual activity at a similar pace as you did before your prostate cancer treatment. This can be through self-stimulation if you’re going solo, or penetrative or non-penetrative activity if you have a partner alongside.

  • Use an ED pill during sexual activity as often as possible. However, don’t feel you need to use one every time.

    Regular use of ED pills can:

  • help you get used to how they work, and help you get confident with using them before you have sex, and

  • help you and your doctor track your responses to the pill over time.

Consider cost when thinking about how often you’d like to use the pills. If buying these pills is a burden, just use them from time to time (rather than regularly) to check if your nerves have sufficiently recovered to respond to erection pills.

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