When a couple is experiencing infertility, sex can sometimes feel like a burden or a chore. Timing sexual intercourse at the right time of one’s menstrual cycle in hopes of achieving conception can be difficult. I mean how romantic is it when your partner calls you on the phone and yells, I am ovulating! Come home now! It is easy to see how there could be a loss in excitement or spontaneity in a couple’s sex life. This is incredibly common for those who struggle with infertility. Logically it makes sense too… the primary goal of sex in this case is conception, not necessarily emotional and physical closeness. For couples who experience infertility for a prolonged amount of time, sex can start to lose its luster. According to a study done by Stanford University, 40% of women with infertility issues also struggled from sexual dysfunctions such as low desire and difficult becoming aroused, as compared to a control group of women without fertility issues.
In addition because infertility is often a silently suffered event for many couples, there is little social support for those going through it. Certainly talking about how one’s sex life is changing and becoming burdensome is definitely not talked about. Chances are though you aren’t the only one out there who is seeing a shift in your sex life. Even for couples without fertility struggles, sex lives ebb and flow. Some times are better than others…and it’s totally ok to talk about it!
Know this is a shared struggle
What I see often is both men and women not communicating to each other about their individual suffering. Infertility can be a trauma, but it’s not one that should be suffered in silence. Schedule weekly catchups and make an effort to be vulnerable. Share with your partner how you are feeling about your infertility journey as well as your sex life.
Create special moments
Romance sometimes is thrown out the window when sex becomes more dictated by your ovulation kit, rather than happening organically. I recommend couples invest more time in carefully planning time together that enhances emotional closeness. This could mean going on a weekend trip together or doing an activity you used to love while dating.
Drown out the background noise
Another element that exacerbates a couple’s infertility struggle is a decrease in helpful support from family and friends. I see it all the time: family and friends try to be supportive, but they aren’t sure how to show up. This lack of knowledge quite often leads to offensive comments and the couple retreating further into isolation. Surround yourself with people who can show up for you and create distance between you and those who can’t.
Ultimately my biggest hope for those whose sex lives have been affected by infertility is to take real actions where sex can still remain to be a positive experience. Sex is an act of true vulnerability, intimacy, shared experience, and love between two people. A disruption in your sex life is totally common, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Jena Booher is a maternal mental health expert who empowers women in their intersection of career, children, and self-care. She owns a private coaching practice and works alongside an MD in NYC counseling women and couples who struggle with miscarriage and infertility. Jena is an active Huffington Post contributor and does public speaking for various companies around NYC in an effort to help retain their top female talent. Some of her most popular public speaking topics have centered on vulnerability as a mom and business owner, shame and failure, and what is possible when you sit shoulder to shoulder with a woman in her pain. You can find more about her atbabiesonthebrain.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org