Infertility treatment: How to stay sexually connectedTracey R
Most couples know that infertility treatment will affect them physically and emotionally, but many are not prepared for the effect it has on their sexual intimacy. Excessive focus on fertility can greatly affect desire and arousal in women and can cause sexual dysfunction in men. The following stressors explain why:
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The spontaneity is gone. During infertility treatment, desire is no longer the main reason for making love. Instead, watches, thermometers, medications, ultrasounds and tests now govern when is the best time to have sex. Infertile couples have sexual intercourse to maximize fertility when they ovulate, increase sperm count and do so in positions that best facilitate sperm to the ovule. While this amount of planning may be necessary to increase the chances of conceiving, it has a cost: forty-five percent of couples struggling with infertility treatment report that sex “by the clock” is stressful. Sex on demand can cause men to develop erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Women often lose desire and have sex without excitement simply to time it correctly.
The medicalization of sex. Couples suffer intimate invasions of their bodies, genitals and even the details of their sex life. Their sexual organs are examined and evaluated for their functioning, often with procedures that hurt or even touch the humiliation. Hormonal medications that increase ovulation, change the acidity of the vagina or develop the uterine lining often create mood swings that decrease desire. At some point in this medical process, the body begins to look mechanically, as functional or not, and sexual intercourse is only good if there is a product resulting from it: a pregnancy. The process of helping a couple create a child, ironically, can be dehumanizing.
Changes in the sexual definitions of the self. Research shows that women in infertility treatment often see themselves as more feminine if they ovulate in a month, but less feminine in months without egg release. Men may begin to feel less self-confident sexually if they cannot create a child with sexual intercourse, regardless of whether or not it is due to their sperm count. Often, when pregnancy occurs without sexual intercourse, but through interventions such as intrauterine fertilization or in vitro fertilization and implantation, couples can often be seen as having failed sexually.
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How to recover sexual intimacy during and after infertility treatment:
Recognize the crisis. Infertility usually occurs within a marriage or young couple and is often the first and unexpected proof of the strength of their coping skills. Sexuality and emotional connection are intrinsically inseparable. The couple has to accept that their path to pregnancy will be complicated and more mechanical than they could have expected, giving each other mutual permission to talk about it and express their disappointment without false guarantees from the other to stay connected.
Protects your union against new intrusions. Couples may need to protect each other from the hurtful comments or judgments of their families. Similarly, well-meaning people often make incredibly naive comments such as: “As soon as you stop trying, you will probably get pregnant.” Be selective about who to reveal your plans when you build your support system. It is difficult enough to endure month after month without pregnancy, much less if you have to inform an audience that also asks about the outcome of your sex life.
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Separate intimate sex from baby’s making. If you can, reserve your bed as the place to try to get pregnant and make love to have fun on the couch, on a carpet in front of the fireplace or book a hotel room: anything more creative that frees you from sex. ” Try to have a pleasant experience a month as a time to talk, touch, reconnect and reassure each other about your love and desire without the pressure of a result.
Share your feelings. Don’t try to be strong for your partner. Be open about the worries in your head and ask about your partner’s fears. Couples who enter into a cycle of communication with a couple complaining or criticizing and the other who defends or withdraws are at risk of derailing both sex and their relationship. You may want to seek therapy to help be clearer communicators during this stressful season.