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When sex goes from stress reliever to stress creator

By Sola Ogundipe

How can you improve your sex life when you’re trying to get pregnant? This was the topic for discussion at a recent forum. There were several opinions but no easy answers.    Sex is for pleasure and making babies. In fact, sex, just once, at any time, could result in pregnancy.

But not everyone usually considers the idea that sex might not lead to pregnancy quickly and simply, and when things don’t work the right way, sex goes from being a stress reliever to being a stress creator.

The experience can be very frustrating, but even though infertility hurts couples’ sex lives, it’s a problem few people talk about.

At the forum, a number of men and women that opened up, said while they were struggling to get pregnant, they experienced low desire and had trouble becoming aroused. Couples that were still battling the infertility challenge said they were much happier with their sex lives before they were diagnosed.

When Anthony and Paula got married three years ago, the sex was fantastic. Anthony said they did it three to six times a week, and a year later, Paula became pregnant but promptly miscarried. The couple continued to make love just as frequently over the next couple of years, but Paula didn’t get pregnant again.

“During sex, I couldn’t stop thinking about my infertility, and over time, I began feeling disconnected from Anthony. We normally like to tease each other, switch positions and cuddle before and after, but that intimacy quickly disappeared,” Paula, a school teacher remarked.

Angela, an insurance broker who has been married for six years without conceiving, noted that women with infertility suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, and their distress is compounded with each unsuccessful treatment attempt.

“Sex, rather than being a place where you can escape the world, becomes a reminder of what you can’t do. You can’t make a baby, as a result, you are less likely to feel close to your partner and might actually feel you are disappointing him,” she stated.

Indeed, when sex is so fraught with failure, it quickly becomes a casualty, and when it does occur, it may be like the on-demand variety that feels like a chore for the couple.

“When your wife calls you while you are at work and says ‘I’m ovulating. Come home. We’ve got to do it now,’ it ruins your ideas of romantic conception,” noted Sam, a computer engineer.

Sam’s argument is that there’s little room for foreplay, and men may have trouble performing under so much pressure.

As the months or years go by, sex may turn into a source of frustration and stress. Sex can be a source of frustration when you’re trying to conceive. Attempting to have sexual intercourse while coping with infertility can be a huge challenge for the simple reason that infertility can negatively impact on sexual life

Before trying to get pregnant, sex was probably thrilling, wonderful, fun and passionate. Trying to conceive for an extended time can change all of this.

Infertility often makes sex to become frustrating. Many couples are witnessing the deterioration of their relationship because of infertility. Sex becomes a reminder of what isn’t working the way it should. Hearing the words, “Let’s make a baby” right before sex may be a turn-on in the beginning. But after months or years of trying to get pregnant, those words are the last thing you’d want to hear.

Sex may feel like a chore. It may feel like something you have to do in order to accomplish a goal. And that goal—making a baby —feels impossible to reach. Add in the stress of timing for ovulation or being told by the doctor to have sex on particular days, and sex starts feeling more like homework.

Infertility may make a woman feel less womanly. The breasts and hips are often thought of as sexual symbols of childbearing and child nourishment. Infertility may take those thoughts away. A woman may not understand how her partner can find her attractive, especially if she feels “damaged” by infertility.

Infertility can also harm a man’s feelings of masculinity. While a woman is more likely to struggle with feelings of depression or anxiety during infertility, a man with infertility struggles terribly with shame.

A man tends to feel “less of a man” if his sperm count is low or he can’t get his partner pregnant, for whatever reasons. He may worry that his partner will leave him for a “real man.” When you don’t feel worthy of love, or don’t feel sexy or attractive, your sexual relationship is going to suffer.

Anxiety can also lead to sexual tension. Anxiety specifically around sex is common in couples dealing with infertility. Women and men with infertility are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction that refers to having problems with any stage of the sexual act, including the desire to have sex, arousal during sex, and orgasm. It’s not hard to imagine how problems of shame, anxiety, depression, and frustration can lead to sexual dysfunction.

Trying to have sex to conceive can be fun and exhilarating… in the beginning.  Many couples struggle with sex and infertility. The pain of infertility can be deep. Sometimes, just finding the energy or willingness to try new things is hard enough.

Many couples that are trying to get pregnant struggle with feelings of low libido, problems getting aroused during sex trouble reaching orgasm, etc. Some may even start to resent sex. The whole idea of “bedroom fun” may be a turn off altogether.

While many people feel these things, most don’t talk about them. Instead, they keep it all bottled inside. This intensifies the feelings of isolation, shame, and resentment. It’s not easy, but it’s important to talk to each other.

Talk about how you feel about sex, what’s going through your mind, and what’s causing trouble for you. You also need to listen. If your partner tells you that sex has become a chore or a burden, hear what they are saying. Don’t automatically assume it is an attack on you.

The testing and treatment of infertility can also bring up feelings of shame.

One of the best ways to fight shame is to bring your feelings of unworthiness into the open. Talk to a friend, a therapist or your partner.  As long as you are not in the middle of treatment, and your doctor has not assigned you to have sex on a particular day, it may be best to drop ovulation prediction for a while.

One fertility doctor explains that if timing sex for pregnancy is turning you off and stressing you out, you may enjoy sex more when it’s not planned only for baby making. Trying to have sex on the most fertile days is a good way to get pregnant faster. But if it’s killing your sexual relationship, it’s not worth it. Instead, try having sex twice or thrice weekly, regardless of the ovulation.

However, most experts recommend that if you want to be extra certain, have sex at least three times a week, maybe even four times. You’re bound to have sex on one of your fertile days, even if it’s not your most fertile day. Having sex more often may boost your chances. Sperms are healthier when sex is happening frequently.

In many instances, it is evident that trying to get pregnant can make people forget that sex is more than intercourse. A number of women desire vaginal intercourse to get pregnant, assuming they’re not having a fertility treatment. But there are other intimate ways to express love and affection.

Taking time to enjoy touching that can’t lead to pregnancy can provide an outlet for sexual enjoyment that isn’t tied directly to baby-making. Another way to bring back the passion and fun is to purposely have sex when you’re not ovulating.

Before the woman’s fertile days at the beginning of her cycle, she knows that sex is not going to lead to a baby. There is less stress and wondering if  “this will be the one that works.”

It can also heal feelings between partners if one is wondering if they only ask for sex in order to achieve pregnancy. Infertility changes how we see ourselves as sexual beings. It changes our sexual relationships.


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