Infertility & Intimacy

Cheers, dear readers,

This week, I am going to tackle yet another taboo subject: intimacy and sexual intercourse. How does dealing with infertility and the possible ensuing treatment affect our intimate lives, our relationship with our partners and our own happiness? Anyone who has had trouble getting or staying pregnant knows that infertility is hard on relationships, and can negatively impact our intimate lives.

Our sexuality as human beings is a complex matter, made no simpler with the addition of infertility! When it’s suspected that there is a barrier between you and your fertility, intimacy can shift away from the heart and be reduced to an activity – a mere means to an end. Before you know it, your libido can be reduced to a distant memory. Even if your intimate life had been previously wonderful, worrying about your chances of conceiving can leave little room for enjoyment. Feelings of desperation in the mind can trump the heart’s involvement in your intimate connection to each other. Add to that intercourse on demand (“I’m ovulating, sweetie! Come home now!”) is a turn-off that turns a choice into a chore. Very unattractive!

Enter the world of treatment of Invitro Fertilization. For women, your ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes become the focus of scrutiny. Women’s libido can be further diminished if they feel unattractive or unfeminine because they can’t conceive – that their bodies are “broken.” Instead of being a happy place where you can escape the world, sexual intercourse can become a reminder of what you can’t do – you can’t make a baby. As a result, women may feel they are disappointing their partners and feel less close to them. It’s important to remember that emotional health can affect one’s chances of treatment success, which can be another stressor.

As for the men, oddly enough dear husband’s sperm makes its way to his wife’s uterus by way of a middle man. Eric would describe the “Boom-Boom Room” to me when he was asked to produce a “specimen” on command, and it did not sound, um… pleasurable or arousal producing. The formality of reproductive science can sometimes have a detrimental effect on the spontaneity and meaning of intimacy.

The pressure that infertility puts on our intimate life with our partners needs to be acknowledged. Please know, readers, that it is completely normal for your libido to take a serious nose dive during this time. Your privacy (partly in the form of your “private parts”) and possibly your libido are lost, while at the same time sexual intercourse (during IVF treatment) becomes “irrelevant” in terms of baby making. The reality of infertility treatment can be brutal.

Learning to tolerate and survive the dehumanization, and still show love for each other in non-intimate ways if need by can be a real challenge. It is my belief that within every challenge there is an opportunity. The intimacy in your marriage and partnership can take on a more profound meaning if you let it.

Give yourself permission to decide what you need to nurture yourself and feel your best during this time. Feeling good about yourself is the best predictor of how you will feel as a human being who enjoys intimacy.

Here are some tips to help during this journey:

– Get plenty of rest

– Eat healthy food to maintain energy

– Practice stress reduction techniques (yoga, meditation, walking)

– Read inspirational articles and books on wellness, spirituality and happy relationships

– Limit exposure to unrealistic images of women which make you feel badly about yourself

– Nurture your relationship with your partner by honest and respectful communication

– Hug your partner close, hold hands and show affection to your partner

– Share gifts of appreciation such as flowers, cards and other momentos to honor your relationship

– Have fun and celebrate your love!

For many couples, sexual intercourse is less about technique than it is about intimacy and feeling good about yourself. You and your partner may find that with good communication and loving affection, there is no better intimacy expert than you, and you may even grow closer as a couple.

Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.

Warm regards,

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