Sex when trying to get pregnant can be fun and exhilarating in the beginning, but as the months or years go by, sex can turn into a source of frustration and stress. Research has found that many couples struggle with sex and infertility. (Read more on about how trying to conceive impacts sex.)
How can you improve your sex life when you're trying to get pregnant? There are no easy answers. I know how frustrating it is to read tips written by others that include nuggets of wisdom like "go on more dates together" or "spice up sex with some candles."
And, yes, there is a place for these methods of connecting and bring back life to sex. However, I know it's not that simple. I know the pain can be deep and sometimes, finding the energy or willingness to try new things is difficult.
So as you read through these tips, keep in mind that I understand this. My advice is not meant to downplay how difficult this time can be for you, your partner, and your sexual relationship.
Talk to Each Other
Many couples trying to get pregnant struggle with feeling of low libido, problems getting aroused during sex, and trouble reaching orgasm. Some may even start to resent sex, or question whether or not their partner would be interested in bedroom fun if the ovulation stick wasn't indicating the time was right.
While many feel these things, most don't talk about them. Instead, they keep it all bottled inside, which in the end just makes the feelings of isolation, shame, and resentment worse.
I know it's hard to do, 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.
And perhaps the hardest task, 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. You are in this together. Only together can you find a way to cope.
Infertility can bring up feelings of shame for men and women. It's common for a diagnosis to leave a woman feeling "damaged" or "like less of a women," and for men with infertility to feel less manly. Even if you once felt sexy and attractive in the past, infertility can change how you see yourself.
The testing and treatment of infertility can also bring up feelings of shame. You may begin to feel like a collection of parts, some working and some not, all subject to evaluation.
One of the best ways to fight shame is to bring your feelings of unworthiness into the open. Shame is a lot like mold. Keep it in a dark place, and it'll thrive. But take it out into the sun and fresh air, and it won't grow as quickly.
Talking about your shameful feelings will help. Be sure to choose someone who you think can provide you with a kind ear (and that doesn't mean they have to have experienced infertility.)
Talk to a friend, talk to a therapist, and talk to your partner. Saying out loud that you feel unattractive, or voicing your concern that your partner will leave you for a "real man" or "real woman" can be scary. But taking shame into the open is the best way to kill it.
- Should You Tell Others About Your Infertility?
- RESOLVE Support Groups
- What is Sexual Shame and Where Does It Come From?
- Dealing with Sexual Shame
Spice Things Up
No, lighting some candles and playing sexy music isn't going to wash away all the pain infertility has brought into your lives. However, it can help. It's like making yourself smile when you're feeling bad. You're sure it won't help at all, and you're annoyed with whoever suggested it, but once you give it a try, you're surprised by how much better you feel.
Especially when your doctor has "assigned" sex on particular days, spicing things up may be the best way to combat arousal problems.
It may even boost your chances for pregnancy success. Research has shown that men produce more sperm after looking at sexy images and when feeling more aroused. And women who are sexually aroused are more likely to have more cervical fluids, which will help transport the sperm to the right place.
Use Fertility Friendly Lubricants
The stress and anxiety of sex for pregnancy can interfere with arousal. For women, this may mean not feeling "wet," or not having arousal fluids, during sex. This can make attempts at sex painful.
General lubricants on the market are not good for trying to get pregnant. Many of them kill or inhibit the movement of sperm, even without added spermicide. However, that doesn't mean you have to suffer through painful sex.
There are a few fertility friendly lubricants available. Preseed is the most well-known brand, and they offer a variety of products.
If you often have trouble with arousal fluids, speak to your doctor. It can be a symptom of a hormonal imbalance, and the information may help him or her treat your infertility. They may also be able to prescribe estrogen, to help increase cervical fluids.
Drop the Focus on Ovulation and Timing
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 awhile. 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 two to three times a week, regardless of your ovulation day. If you want to be extra "safe," 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.
Plus, having sex more often, instead of aiming for a particular day, may boost your chances. Sperm are healthier when sex is happening frequently.
Another bonus, 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 babymaking. As I wrote above, enjoying sex more may help you be more fertile.
Explore Sexual Touch Beyond Intercourse
Trying to get pregnant can make us forget that sex is more than intercourse. Sure, you need intercourse to get pregnant. But you don't need intercourse to show love and affection to each other.
Taking time to enjoy sexual touch that goes beyond intercourse can provide an outlet for sexual enjoyment that isn't tied directly to babymaking.
Have Sex When You Can't Get Pregnant
Another way to bring back the passion and fun, and forget about the babymaking for awhile, is to purposely have sex when you're not ovulating.
During your two-week wait, or before your fertile days at the beginning of your cycle, you can know that sex is not going to lead to a baby. So 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. I don't suggest seducing your partner into having sex by telling them about your fertile cervical fluids. However, it may actually be a turn on to tell them that you know you're not ovulating, and you just want them right now.
See a Therapist
You should not feel like you need to go through this alone. There are counselors who are specifically trained to help you cope with the stress of infertility, and they can help you and your partner get through this difficult time.
There are also sex therapists, people who are trained to help you with your sexual relationship. Try to find someone with has experience working with fertility-challenged couples, so you don't accidentally get someone giving you false ideas. (If they tell you that your sexual relationship is the cause for your infertility, for instance, you should find someone else.)
- Questions and Answers on Sex Therapy
- How to Find a Fertility Therapist
- Reasons to See a Therapist for Infertility
More on coping while trying to conceive:
- How TTC Affects Your Sex Life
- How to Cope When Trying to Conceive Overwhelms You
- How to Cope During the Two Week Wait
- Emotional Impact of Infertility
- Coping with Fertility Test Anxiety
- How to Have a Baby When You've Been Trying for Awhile
- Take a Fertility Quiz
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Kilgallon SJ, Simmons LW. "Image content influences men's semen quality." Biology Letters. 2005 Sep 22;1(3):253-5.
Pound N, Javed MH, Ruberto C, Shaikh MA, Del Valle AP. "Duration of sexual arousal predicts semen parameters for masturbatory ejaculates." Physiology and Behavior. 2002 Aug;76(4-5):685-9.
van Roijen JH, Slob AK, Gianotten WL, Dohle GR, van der Zon AT, Vreeburg JT, Weber RF. "Sexual arousal and the quality of semen produced by masturbation." Human Reproduction. 1996 Jan;11(1):147-51.