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Losing intimacy with infertility: Know how the pressure of pregnancy can affect sex drive

Infertility and intimacy can have a strange but strong connect, say experts. Know how the pressure of trying for a baby can hamper your sex life.
Side effects of infertility
Is infertility ruining your sex life? Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Radhika Bhirani Updated: 4 May 2023, 21:28 pm IST
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Sex, for 35-year-old working professional Snigdha Mishra and her husband, was all about spontaneity and passion, up until 10 months ago. What went wrong? “Well, we finally decided to try for a baby. But efforts have been in vain so far,” says Mishra, admitting that infertility has almost killed her sex life.

Once a meticulous planner of her work calendar, her mind is now preoccupied by her vigilance on her menstrual calendar. Her eyes are set on days when she must ensure sex happens at least once. On other days, intercourse seems like a bonus. Sex is neither as experimental nor as exciting as before, Snigdha says,  candidly confessing that trying to grow their family seems to have taken a toll on their relationship.

In a society where sex is considered merely an act of procreation rather than pleasure, it is a welcome change for people to talk about intimacy and infertility. Truth be told, couples dealing with infertility or infertility treatment, go through increased stress which hampers sex life.

A recent Instagram post, jointly curated by Dr Tanaya Narendra aka Dr Cuterus and Washington-based reproductive health educator Dr Lora Shahine, touched upon this rarely talked about link between infertility and intimacy.

“The longer it takes to conceive, the more strain on mental health, finances and relationships – especially the relationship between partners,” notes the post.

Infertility can affect sex life
Dealing with infertility can have side effects on your physical and emotional connect. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

To the outside world, a couple trying to have a baby may seem fun. But only those who go through the process every month – hoping that every PMS symptom is an early pregnancy symptom – know the agony and disappointment that comes with Day 1 of Aunt Flo cycle after cycle. Yes, infertility can affect mental health.

Why does infertility affect sex life?

There can be many reasons behind the impact of infertility on intimacy, but here are 5 key points highlighted by the two popular doctors.

1. Sex begins to feel like a job

“It’s okay, we will try again next month!” When this becomes the comforting statement between couples, you know sex has become more about trying to conceive than about pleasure or connection. It feels like an appointment, and that pressure of planned intimacy is like a dagger in the chest. The focus turns from enjoyment to outcome.

2. Infertility also affects how men feel about sex

As per the experts, men report feeling like a sperm production tool. They may have good reason. Ejaculating in the vagina is the most natural way to try for a baby. And battling infertility comes with performance pressure every day that the woman is in the fertile stage of her ovulation cycle. As it happens, infertility doesn’t just have an emotional effect on a woman. A man may also feel equally stressed and depressed, which can lead to a low libido or erectile dysfunction.

3. Women feel like watch-women

“Women report feeling responsible for tracking cycles, timing and taking charge of the process,” share the doctors. Between a couple, this begins to feel like the woman instructing the man when the sex will be best scheduled. Tanya Kumar (name changed), a 37-year-old, finds herself in a catch 22 situation. She says her husband has strictly told her not to make him conscious about the days he has to ‘perform’. It makes him nervous and disconnected, she adds. Besides, she hates being the one to keep taking the stress of not missing the dates.

Also read: Here’s how overthinking pregnancy can ruin your sex life

Ovulation calendar for infertility
Tracking your fertility period is important if you are trying to conceive. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Trauma around treatment

The experts note that if either of the persons involved have a history of sexual trauma, they may feel triggered by the infertility examination and treatment. This can further hamper sex life.

5. Sex can become a rude reminder

While dealing with infertility, most efforts at having sex becomes centered around scoring the sperm-and-egg union. It can be a constant reminder of what you don’t have as a couple – in this case, the baby you are trying to have. So, the emotions attached can go on an overdrive, and sexual desire and pleasure feels on a constant under-drive.

How to regain intimacy while dealing with infertility

No matter how hard it may seem, avoiding the negative emotional impact and reconnecting sexually as you jointly deal with the complex situation of infertility, is important. Here are some tips by Dr Tanaya Narendra and Dr Lora Shahine.

Intimacy in a relationship
Keep the spark alive in your relationship. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

* Avoid ignoring the importance of intimacy. It is not something that will automatically come back once you have a baby. It needs constant work.

* Don’t just keep your moments of intimacy for the most fertile days. Keep sex spontaneous and do it when you feel like. Don’t always overthink sex.

* Remember that intimacy is not just sex. Emotional intimacy is just as important and you need to keep the spark alive in your relationship. You can do this by making time to do things you enjoy together – it could be as simple as going out for a movie or coffee date.

* Last but not the least, if you feel the need, ask for help. Don’t let your relationship crumble under the pressure of pregnancy. Be it sex therapists, your family members or counsellors, you can seek help and talk about your problems rather than feeling stifled.

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About the Author

Radhika Bhirani is a journalist with close to 15 years of experience in the Indian media industry. After writing extensively on health, lifestyle and entertainment, she leads the English content team at Health Shots. She has a special interest in writing on mental health and wellness. ...Read More

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