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22.05.2009 Feature Article

'Abrokyire' Palaver: Between sex and death

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For the second time in a few months there is news of another woman dying while having sexual intercourse. This got me rather curious because prior to reading about these two cases I only heard of men dying during sex as a result of heart failures.

First was the case of Adiza Ibrahim, 25, a nursing mother who reportedly collapsed and died during a sexual encounter with a driver's mate. Then only last week I read about the case of Kofi Suang, a farmer from Budukwaa near Enyan Abaasa, who is facing a provisional charge of murder when his 53-year-old girlfriend became unconscious during sex and died subsequently.

These two cases, like what happened to the chief who allegedly died on Valentine's Day last year at a hotel and many others that have been subjects of news items, are disturbing and rather sad knowing that acts that people mutually engage in can end on such a devastating note.

There have been explanations why men die during sexual intercourse; attributed mainly to heart conditions. Not much attention has been paid to the same subject as it pertains to women, I'm afraid.

I therefore embarked on some casual discussions with some adult friends and the kinds of explanations I heard for this situation, I must concede, sounded rather scary for women. Since those were no medical professionals I do not intend to reproduce the explanations.

My concern though is for some education as to what causes women to die during sexual acts and what can be done to prevent such 'preventable' deaths.

Amy Tuteur, a gynecologist, in a piece written for Cosmo Magazine disclosed that orgasms could kill women. "Anyone who has an abnormal blood vessel in the brain is at risk for bleeding into the brain if the blood pressure rises, and sex can cause a temporary rise in blood pressure. For those with heart problems, sexual activity can lead to a heart attack”, she writes.

The risk, she notes, is even higher for those with heart problems “who are cheating on a spouse because the risk of a heart attack appears to be even higher. It must be the added effect of guilt on the blood pressure."

In a Joy FM news interview report on the subject, Dr Alfred Doku, a medical doctor at the Korle-Bu Cardiothoracic Centre advised people to take stress tests before engaging in active sex. As to the feasibility of this practice for two people whose passion could reach insatiable levels within seconds of touching a button, this advise is as good as being 'dead on arrival'.

As he pointed out with women, the difficulty with seeing any danger signals is exacerbated by the fact that they tend to be passive partners in the sexual encounter and so picking cues of impending danger does not even come into the picture.

My concern is, if attaining orgasm can complicate any underlying conditions and even result in death why do all the marriage counselors on our television and radio stations harp on women aiming at the ultimate of attaining orgasms without as much as a hint of the risk?

The health website, notes that unlike men, the relationship between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and sexual dysfunction in women is less clear although “sexual dissatisfaction in women has been linked to peripheral arterial disease, the mechanisms of female sexual function are thought to be less intertwined with the cardiovascular system”.

It even goes to the extent of suggesting that if you come from a family where people have cardiovascular disease you should begin to ask your doctor what type of sexual activity is safe for you to engage in. “And if you have heart failure, your doctor may recommend that you avoid lying on your back during sex, because fluid is more likely to pool in your lungs in that position”.

There are so many confusing pieces of information out there and I think it is important that all the marriage counselors and sex therapists that spend time on television and radio advising people about all manner of things, including how many times they should be engaging in sexual activity, should begin to address such issues to avoid needless deaths.

I cannot fathom anyone deciding to engage in sexual activity because they want to die. Our health experts must begin to help the population address some of these issues because the untimely deaths not only create panic but also embarrass surviving partners. In closely-knit communities, such as rural settings, the situation could be so bad one is sure to be stigmatized and suffer a psychological trauma.

I hope that some professionals will take up this issue and begin to educate Ghanaians on this all important issue. We do not need more sex deaths.

Dot Asare-Kumah [ [email protected]]

Dorothy Asare-Kumah
Dorothy Asare-Kumah, © 2009

The author has 21 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: DorothyAsareKumah

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