For many people with chronic kidney disease, a transplant is the best treatment option. With a new, working kidney, transplant recipients don’t have to attend lengthy dialysis appointments, freeing up more time for travel, work and recreation. People often describe it as ‘getting their life back.’
However, a transplant is not a cure. After a kidney transplant, it’s important to monitor your diet, exercise regularly, take daily medications and watch out for any signs of complications.
What to expect after a kidney transplant
In general, life after a kidney transplant is healthier, happier and a lot less restricted. You’re no longer tied to a dialysis regimen and you feel much more like your pre-dialysis self.
Part of adjusting to life with a kidney transplant is re-learning what’s A-ok and what’s off limits. Here’s what you can expect.
- Driving – Driving is off limits during the first few weeks of recovery. After that, if all is well, you’ll be free to hit the open road.
- Work – Many people return to work just a couple of months after their transplant. A kidney transplant usually makes working easier, as you don’t have to adjust your schedule for dialysis.
- Dialysis catheter – If your new kidney is working well, you can have your dialysis catheter removed. It’s a simple, same-day procedure.
- Diet and exercise – Although your diet may be less restricted after a transplant, your doctor will still place you on a healthy ‘transplant diet’ and recommend daily exercise.
- Sex – There are no restrictions on sex following a transplant, and having sex will not harm your new kidney. You can resume sexual activity whenever you feel ready, which is typically about a month after the surgery. Many people who experienced sexual side effects when on dialysis find their sex lives improve after a transplant.
- Fertility – It’s common for both men and women to become fertile again following a kidney transplant. Irregular or stopped menstrual periods are a common side effect of CKD, but most women get their period back after a transplant.
- Pregnancy and birth control – It’s possible to get pregnant after having a kidney transplant. However, it’s important to talk about it with your doctor before you start trying, as you’ll need to stop taking certain medications during the pregnancy. Generally, female transplant recipients must go on some form of birth control. Speak to your doctor about birth control options, as some are off limits (e.g. the IUD).