Living With a Transplant

Kidney transplant recipients

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).

Kidney transplant
‘do’s and don’ts’


  • Exercise daily, as recommended by your doctor
  • Travel and enjoy life away from the dialysis chair
  • Return to work after your recovery
  • Enjoy your newfound energy and sense of wellbeing
  • Speak to your doctor if you plan to get pregnant
  • Monitor your weight, blood pressure and temperature daily
  • Attend scheduled check-ups and screenings



  • Forget to take your medications
  • Eat a diet high in salt, fat, sugar and cholesterol
  • Engage in contact sports or weight lifting
  • Ignore the signs of an infection
  • Continue to smoke or decide to start smoking

Stay healthy after a kidney transplant

The surgery may only take a few hours but remember — a kidney transplant is an ongoing form of treatment. To stay healthy and avoid complications, you’ll still need to work harder than those who have their own healthy kidneys.

Here’s how you can keep your new kidney healthy.

  • Maintain a healthy diet – Monitor your nutrition and watch what you eat very carefully, particularly if you have diabetes. Your doctor will likely place you on a strict low-fat, low-salt, low-cholesterol and low-calorie ‘transplant diet.’
  • Exercise daily – After your initial recovery, you’re encouraged to exercise every day. This helps you rebuild strength and maintain a healthy weight. Swimming, walking and biking are some of the best forms of exercise for transplant recipients. However, contact sports (e.g. football, boxing), weight lifting and high-risk activities like skiing are off limits unless your doctor says otherwise.
  • Avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits – Since a kidney transplant makes you more susceptible to certain health conditions and anti-rejection drugs increase the odds of certain cancers, make sure to:
    • Quit smoking (if you haven’t already).
    • Take extra care to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
    • Limit your alcohol intake to one drink per day if your doctor says it’s OK. 
  • Take prescribed anti-rejection medications – Don’t forget to take your daily dose of immunosuppressants, which help ensure your immune system doesn’t attack your new kidney. Forgetting just one dose can be harmful.
  • Be vigilant and watch out for health complications – After a kidney transplant, it’s important to continually monitor your health. Make sure to:
    • Monitor and record your weight, blood pressure and temperature daily, in accordance with your doctor’s orders.
    • Schedule check-ups and routine cancer screenings (e.g. mammograms, prostate exams, colonoscopies) as recommended by your doctor.
    • Call your doctor right away if you experience symptoms of infection, which include: fever, sore throat, head cold, headaches, joint pain, aching muscles and pain or blood when urinating.


Considering a kidney transplant?

>     Read more about the procedure and how to get on the waiting list