Sex can be especially exciting when you’re trying to start a family. You and your partner can enjoy your time together, bond as a couple, and smile to yourselves, wondering if your most recent bedroom encounter will result in a new family member nine months from now.
But if you and your partner aren’t experiencing this fairy tale, sex and relationships can become more difficult. Some couples drift apart during infertility treatments, but it’s important to stay connected – including sexually.
Let’s look at some of the challenges couples face:
Having sex on a schedule. Many couple feel like they have to have sex at a certain time, depending on what the calendar or clock tells them about ovulation cycles. No matter how they feel, they need to take advantage of a window of opportunity. However, the real world doesn’t always work that day. Your fertility specialist might say that October 6 is the ideal time to make a baby, but when that day arrives, one of you might have had a stressful day at work. Or you might be away on business. Or your partner might have the flu. If sex doesn’t work out, you might feel guilty about losing the opportunity.
Try this: Make sure you are still having sex for connection and fun. It might help to plan date nights, explore fantasies, and keep that romantic spark burning. Remember that there are lots of good reasons to have sex. Becoming pregnant is only one.
Coping with disappointment. If you and your partner have been trying to conceive for a long time, it’s natural to feel sad and frustrated if it doesn’t happen. Depression and anxiety can take a toll on all aspects of a relationship, including sexuality.
Try this: Don’t keep your feelings bottled up inside. If you are feeling down, be open with your partner. Don’t blame each other for your situation. Just know that you are in this together. Consider joining a support group in your community where you can talk to other couples coping with infertility. You might also see a counselor or therapist – alone or as a couple - to help keep your relationship strong. It’s okay to seek help.
Dealing with “know-it-alls” and nosy people. Friends and family, no matter how well-intentioned, may ask invasive questions. (When are you going to have a baby? How often do you try? What’s your sperm count?) or make thoughtless comments. (You just need to relax. You’re trying too hard. My co-worker got pregnant after she started using X supplement.)
Try this: You and your partner are in charge of this journey. If someone asks you a nosy question, you do not have to answer it. If someone makes an insensitive comment, don’t take it to heart. You know your situation best. Talk together about how much information you’re willing to share and with whom you’re willing to share it.
Putting your relationship on the back burner. During infertility treatment, it’s easy to get swept away by the whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, hormones, and tests. And all of this takes place in the midst of your daily lives, which can have their own stresses.
Try this: This is the time to make your relationship a priority. You and your partner got together for a reason. Think about what brought you close and what keeps your relationship solid. And don’t forget to have fun. Go out with friends, see a silly movie, make an elaborate meal together. Share a hug or a smile. Keep yourselves connected.
You and your partner might not know what the future holds for your family. But one thing you can know is that you’re in this together, for now and for the future.
Jaeger-Skigen, Beth, LCSW
“Sex & Infertility: How to Reconnect Sexually During Infertility”
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Gao, Jingjing, MM, et al.
“Relationship between Sexual Dysfunction and Psychological Burden in Men with Infertility: A Large Observational Study in China”
(Abstract. First published: May 20, 2013)
“Men with Infertility”
Winkelman, William D., MD, et al.
“The Sexual Impact of Infertility Among Women Seeking Fertility Care”
(Full-text. Published online: May 7, 2016)
Watson, Laurie J., LMFT
“How to Stay Sexually Connected During Infertility Treatment”
(June 5, 2019)