When heterosexual couples first start the process of expanding their family it is often a time of excitement. However, this can quickly change when a pregnancy takes longer than expected or a couples’ journey is  filled with high hopes and followed by despair after a loss/miscarriage. Regardless of the length of this process, many couples report a shift in intimacy and sex as a result of fertility stressors. I refer to it, as the a shift from the focus being on pleasure/intimacy to “baby-making.” This is when factors that drive sex change from what they were before the couple tried to get pregnant. The new focus might be on ovulation, the impact of medical intervention on libido, frequency of intercourse and, desire for the creation of a baby. These things might overshadow all the other reasons a couple had intercourse at other times in their relationship. This shift is often painful and can lead to disconnection, frustration, and a change in how both partners may experience sex and might alter a couple’s desire to have sex. This can start a bigger cycle of avoidance and disappointment around sex and intimacy in general.
How do we avoid falling in this trap? Communication between partners is essential. Authentically discussing the struggles you are experiencing as a couple (even though those experiences might differ) is a critical piece to staying connected to one another. Connecting emotionally will help with feelings of loneliness, isolation, and blame that can be part of an infertility journey.  Making time for each other and making sure that the emotional bond is present will enable each partner to make efforts at meeting each other’s needs. When emotional needs are met and a partner feels connected, sex can again take on a different meaning.
It is also important to find time to connect, not only about the current fertility struggles, but to connect or join in other activities, both independently and together. Make it a priority to have date nights, connecting with your support network, enjoy activities together that can impact fertility, such as exercise, healthy eating, and self-care. Spend some time reflecting on all the reasons you want to be have sex with your partner, such as, pleasure, relaxation, intimacy, desire, and fun. Talk with your partner about ways to bring those feelings back and what you might each need for that to occur. Some examples that might help: 1) changing who initiates sex, 2) being more spontaneous in terms of timing around sex, 3) trying different positions, 4) having sex outside the bedroom, 5) being intentional about having sex throughout your cycle, not just around ovulation. 6) Holding space for either partner to not be in the mood and finding other ways to be intimate that are not sexual. (touch, cuddling, taking a bath or shower together, kissing, and holding hands).
Other tips to have great mindfulness sex during struggles with fertility
  • Focus on where you and your partner experience pleasure, considering how to include the whole body, shift away from focus on orgasm.
  • Talk to your partner about pressure of touch, location, intensity, and speed. Give feedback and welcome feedback as a way to deepen both intimacy and communication.
  • Encourage foreplay for both partners as ways to focus on pleasure and reconnecting with each other.
  • Take time throughout the day to built up desire in a playful way connecting emotionally during the day, often helps couples have more sex.
  • Encourage spur of the moment intimacy, by making each other a priority in the moment.

Dr Van Bekkum practices in Denver and can be found at https://www.catalystcenterllc.com/

Dr. Lies van Bekkum
Clinical Psychologist