Sex & Infertility – Staying a Sexual Being Through Treatment
Sex and Fertility. Sex and Infertility. How does one affect the others? Where do you find fertility and infertility intrudes on your sexuality or your sex life? How do you keep the three of them separate?
We often don’t. Our sex lives, our playful sexual beings (if we have one), often get submerged when we face infertility. We don’t feel sexy. We feel positively unsexy.
Sex and Infertility
Sex, at best, at most moments, is a tricky topic. Most often, it is a private topic. Posts about modesty garnered the following comments on Facebook: "I lost all modesty after going through infertility. Now it's like..."Yeah, whatever...I'm naked". It’s interesting, isn’t it, that while we lose our modesty, we do not gain sexual freedom. In fact, the more we have professionals looking up our “private parts” (we can say what they are, we’re grown ups!), the less modest we feel and the less sexy we feel.
There are lots of things that we think about sex. There are lots of stereotypes about sex. There are lots of things that we never say about sex. There are lots and lots and lots of taboos about sex. What you are and are not allowed to do or even think about sex.
Sex and Getting Pregnant
One thing about sex that we can acknowledge is that it can produce a pregnancy and even, sometimes a baby. Most of us seem to think that when we want to have a baby, we have sex, (for those of us in same-sex relationships, it's a bit more complicated) we get pregnant, we have a baby. How much does it stink when that doesn't happen?
I really want to stick to the topic of sex though, not infertility. Infertility stinks, no question, and I've talked about it in many ways, in many blogs. Sex though, and how infertility affects our sexual beings, is another story. Or another angle on the same story. Infertility affects our sexual being because our reproductive organs are related to our sexual organs. Nothing like stating the obvious, huh?
How Fertility Treatment Affects Us Sexually
But think about it, (yes, I am a little strange, if you've been reading this blog, you already know that) if we were treated for infertility by an eye examination or by being treated solely through our left arms, would it affect us sexually? If treatment didn't include repeated views of our uterus, ovaries and sperm, would infertility feel less invasive to our sexual lives?
I think in this respect, the men in fertility treatment have it just as tough. There's a lot of talk and guilt about the fact that most women need to go through more in treatment than the male partners. In regards to how we feel this sexually, I think the men are just as affected. While it may seem like a lot less to have to go through, ejaculating into a cup (rather than shots, ultrasounds, retrievals and more), here is where infertility hits home, specifically and concretely. Taking one's penis in hand, having to get an erection, having to ejaculate into a cup, while everyone knows exactly what you are doing, is hard on the sexual being. It must feel very, very far from being sexual or intimate.
I know it sounds humiliating. As does putting one's feet into stirrups and having a probe in one's vagina, perhaps with another human being on the other end that you have never even met. I'm hoping that I'm not being too blunt for some of my readers. I know for those of you in fertility treatment, I'm probably not. You know exactly what I am talking about. For those professionals out there, you may not realize that for each and every patient, this feels like an invasion, an intrusion, even a humiliation.
So I got off the subject of sex a bit. Or I didn't. It's such a big subject, impossible to cover in such a short amount of words. I think today's blog was about thinking out loud. What do you think about sex and infertility? Has it enhanced your sexual life? Anyone's?
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.