During the past twenty-two years, I have specialized in counseling individuals, couples and groups who are experiencing infertility. I talk with couples openly and intimately about how their sex life is affected during infertility treatments, and I have never heard a couple say their sex life improved during treatment. Instead, their sexual activity ranges form ‘about the same” to “non-existent”.
Couples often report that they are uncomfortable discussing these issues with their doctor because they feel too vulnerable and embarrassed. These feelings can be exacerbated if a couple is already experiencing feelings of shame or embarrassment about being diagnosed as infertile.
The mental, emotional, and physical experiences of infertility can have a negative impact on your sexual desire and sexual performance. Hormonal fluctuations affect your sexual interest and arousal. Normal sexual activity is interrupted during diagnostic testing and treatment. You may find your sexual desire decreasing as the focus of sex shifts from pleasure to becoming pregnant. Couples often lose interest in sex except during the middle of a woman’s menstrual cycle each month when she is most likely to become pregnant. Knowing there is a one or two daywindow of time each month when a sperm can fertilize an egg is stressful and puts pressure on a couple to have intercourse whether they feel like it or not.
Couples want to stay connected during infertility. They want to please each other, and they need to create ways to keep their romance and passion alive. In order for this to happen, it is important to communicate to your partner the physical and sexual feelings and responses that you are experiencing during infertility. It’s best to have these conversations when you are both feeling rested and calm, not when you are feeling stressed or exhausted.
Both men and women want to feel special, loved and desired. Remember that sex is not just physical; it is also a mental and emotional experience. Flirt with each other, give surprise gifts and express your love in non-verbal ways. You can send cards or e-mails to stimulate sexual interest. When someone says they want to feel “loved” what they are often seeking from a partner is attention, which is being fully present when you are talking, listening or spending time together.
There is an exchange of energy which seems to magically occur during physical touch that leaves couples feeling more connected to one another. Take time to touch each other often throughout the day. Take time to look at each other in loving ways. Take time to say kind words. Remember what first attracted you to each other and remember why you chose to spend your lives together. If you make it a priority to nurture your physical relationship, you may find that some of the frustrations of infertility became calmer and less important. Today and each day for the rest of your lives, create ways to stay close and connected. This enables you to find comfort and peace during the journey of building your family together.