Coping with Infertility: Sex on Demand
You may have heard the term "sex on demand" being used in discussions about infertility. Indeed, one of the struggles couples experiencing problems trying to conceive often face is a loss of romance when it comes to sexual intimacy. Sex becomes necessary for the purpose of conception and may start to seem mechanical. This in turn can lead to added stress among couples getting pregnant, and may even lead to sexual dysfunction, which can particularly affect male fertility.
What is 'Sex on Demand'?
When a couple is experiencing infertility for relatively long periods of time, the desire to conceive often seems to overpower the desire to be intimate. When trying to conceive or when undergoing infertility treatment, conception sex can feel like 'sex on demand' as a result of a variety of pressures.
Conception sex often involves specific and scheduled timing to correspond with a woman’s ovulation cycle. In addition, couples often limit themselves to certain sexual positions that are believed to improve the odds of getting pregnant. Timing and pressure can be particularly problematic when one partner has a business trip, is working late or just isn’t in the mood.
Couples who undergo infertility treatment often dread the post-coital test, since intercourse must be scheduled just prior to a visit to the fertility clinic. In addition, many men feel uncomfortable providing semen samples at fertility clinics when going through the various stages of infertility treatment. All of these factors can contribute to the sense that sex is becoming chore-like, decreasing one’s desire and libido, which can in turn lead to a variety of problems affecting fertility.
Emotions and Sexual Dysfunction
The stress, psychological demands and often physically intrusive procedures of infertility treatment can lead to a variety of emotional responses that can negatively affect male fertility. These responses are perfectly normal, and it is important to keep this in mind when coping with infertility.
Men who have been diagnosed with male factor infertility often feel a sense of inadequacy or that their masculinity is on the line. Some men have feelings of depression, fear, and performance anxiety. Consequently, not only can sexual desire be affected, men may experience sexual dysfunction as a result of infertility.
Types of sexual dysfunction that may occur among couples trying to conceive can include the following:
- failure to have sexual intercourse
- infrequent sexual intercourse
- erectile dysfunction
- ejaculatory dysfunction (inability to produce semen at orgasm)
- vaginismus or dyspareunia in women (painful intercourse)
Tips for Conception Sex
It is important to keep in mind that anxiety, stress and pressure are common feelings experienced among couples trying to conceive. However, most couples are able to move beyond these obstacles by learning how to cope with these emotions. The following are some tips that can help couples dealing with 'sex on demand' to bring the excitement and desire back into their lives:
- keep a sense of humor. While infertility can be a stressful time for couples, remember that you are on the journey to getting pregnant together. Bonding through humor will not only relieve stress, but will keep your relationship lively.
- separate fertility from sexuality. Your ability to conceive should not determine your sexuality. In fact, there is a big difference between conception sex and sex for pleasure. Distinguishing conception sex from sex for pleasure can allow couples to be realistic and avoid the pitfalls of thinking that sex must be romantic and spontaneous.
- remember that as long as you and your partner are emotionally and physically connected, sexual pleasure can take place. Work on your relationship by communicating your feelings to stay connected.
- have sex for conception when your doctor advises you too, but don’t neglect the remainder on the month. Change your sex life as much as you need to, and avoid thinking about infertility during this time. Remain playful, take your time, and schedule fun dates to keep the passion alive.
Remember that you and your partner are in this together. While it is important to have ample time to grieve and deal with the difficult emotions that often accompany infertility, placing a priority on your happiness and your relationship with your partner can have significant effects on you fertility and minimize factors that may reduce your chances of getting pregnant.