Some readers may wonder how I came to devote an entire chapter of my book When You're Not Expecting to the topic of the sex lives of couples with infertility. My answer would have to be that, among the hundreds of couples I have counseled about issues affected by their infertility, well over 90 percent identify their sexual relationship.
And this is now backed up by research just posted on an e-mail of RESOLVE to its members today: "A study conducted at Duke University Medical Center, and presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine by Dr. Jennifer Norten examined 'sexual satisfaction and functioning in patients seeking infertility treatment.' The results of this study suggest that women undergoing infertility treatment experience significant changes in various aspects of sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, length of foreplay and frequency of intercourse."
For both male and female readers who have been diagnosed with infertility, this will come as no surprise, although it may be something of a relief to know that you are not alone. As my blog earlier in this week preceding Valentine's Day indicates, scheduling sexual intercourse to coincide with ovulation can take a real toll on spontaneous lovemaking! So, what to do? To be truthful, most of these ideas have come from my clients over the years, as they tried to put the zing back into their sex lives. So read along, and see whether any of these can counter the image of your infertility specialist perched on your bedpost:
Make a real effort to save the bedroom for lovemaking and for sleeping -- no reading, no computer, no TV, no Blackberry, no eating, and especially no talking about problems, including infertility. If you have distractions or unpleasant associaltions with what you do in the bedroom, it will be harder to associate that room with sexuality, with intimacy, with desire and with emotional closeness.
Before even coming into the bedroom, talk to your partner about the changes in your sexual intimacy since you began trying to conceive. Use these converations as a way of blaming infertility for any lack of sexual spontaneity. Affirm how erotic you still find your partner; how much your cherish the closeness, comfort and joy of good sex, and how you want to think of ways to recapture and reinvigorate your love life.
Once you are openly communicating about your wish to welcome lovemaking, as contrasted with scheduled sex, back into your lives, see if you can pinpoint the deterrents and figure out how to work around them.
Be kind to yourselves. Start out slowly, celebate small sexual pleasures, and don't be deterred by inevitable missteps and disappointments. Keep the lines of communication open so you stay on the same page about what brings you joy and what you need to rethink. Be sure to give positive feedback to each other.
Experiment with new sexual strategies. Take turns initiating sex, rent DVDs, read books, wear some sexy clothing -- and remember that this is not a scientific experiment! Laugh, be tender, be goofy, be loving. There's always time to create sexual closeness.
And remember: no pressure! Sexual expression needn't involve intercourse if this reminds you too much of scheduled baby making. You can even forget orgasms if you're not in the mood. Kissing, licking, caressing, snuggling, touching -- the number of ways you can pleasure one another to reaffirm your sexual joy is endless. Don't wait!