"Not again!". When you are trying to conceive, sex can become anything but enjoyable. Fear of failure, fertility medications, performance anxiety.all help cause at least 1/3 of infertile couples to develop some level of sexual dysfunction often coupled with depression. Because conception requires intercourse, if sexual dysfunction arises, TTC couples "keep at it" even if positive feelings about their sexual relationship diminish. Studies can't agree which is the chicken or the egg (depression because of lack of fulfilling intimacy or poor quality sex because of depression?), but one thing is sure, almost all infertile couples go through some mourning for the loss of a "normal" sex life.
Well, who cares if you enjoy making love or not while trying-to-conceive? After all, you want a baby! Actually, the quality of intimacy you have during "that time of the month", (when you are fertile of course!) can be critical. First of all, numerous studies (reviewed at www.helpconceive.com) have shown that the more stimulated or "turned on" the man is the more motile sperm he can produce. Significant increases in sperm counts and sperm motility have been found following more foreplay and/or stimulation before ejaculation. In particular, for men with low sperm counts, spending time getting your husband good and in the mood, should be a part of the plan.
Enjoyable intercourse isn't just good for sperm counts. Overall marital discord is lower in couples that enjoy satisfying sexual relations even when the woman is ovulating. The investigators in this study (also see www.helpconceive.com) found that couples who are able to stay in sync in the bedroom while working on procreation, were better able to function as a team in dealing with the larger issues and stresses of infertility.
One common TTC complication is vaginal dryness in the female partner, with 75% of TTC couples reporting an increased incidence during timed intercourse. Fear of failure and fertility medications can make many women lack natural lubrication. Unfortunately, three decades of research have shown that most vaginal lubricants cause rapid losses in sperm motility and viability, equivalent to contraceptive gels. This is true even if they don't contain a spermicide and even if they are water based. There is tremendous misinformation on this topic. However, a new "sperm-friendly" intimate moisturizer (Pre~Seed) has been recently introduced for couples who need relief from vaginal dryness while trying to conceive. Being able to have intercourse throughout your fertile time, without pain, is an important part of TTC and is important for your well being as a couple.
Once dryness isn't an issue, use your fertile time to experiment with new things to up the romance and sizzle while making love. Although overstated, it often isn't implemented during TTC because everyone's stress levels can preclude being more imaginative. Most importantly, when you are making a baby take time at least once a month to recall why you fell in love, and to put some of that same energy you used to put into planning a special rendezvous into enjoying each other, even if you happen to be ovulating! Don't blame each other when things get sideways, but be creative and communicative to find new ways to enjoy your intimate friendship.
Dr. JE Ellington is CEO of INGfertility which has develops products for TTC couples, including Pre~Seed sperm friendly intimate moisturizer. She has been awarded the 2003 Young Andrology Award from the American Society of Andrology recognizing her federally funded research in gamete biology and infertility, and her 75 publications that have resulted from this work.
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