Why Infertility Destroys Your Sex Life (and how couples therapy can help)

You tried for a whole year, painstakingly following your cycle, peeing on sticks, hoping and planning. That was already a buzzkill for your sex life, but you were so optimistic! When you didn’t conceive for 12 months, you went to the doctor and suddenly your life turned into a scheduling nightmare—taking time off work for appointments, keeping track of which medicine to take when, and finding time to have sex in the middle of everything became just another item on the to-do list. To be blunt, infertility destroys your sex life. At least for a while.

When you’re going through infertility, you’re so focused on having a child that your relationship is changing. It’s become less about the two of you and more about this all-consuming goal. Sure, you’re partners working toward something you want very much, but it all becomes too mechanical and detached. You disconnect from each other.

Eventually, you might find your relationship suffering. And good sex is probably first on the list of things that you’ve lost. You don’t want to be intimate unless it’s for goal-oriented baby-making sex.

You’ve given your all to fertility treatment, and you have nothing left for yourself or your partner.

Not enjoying sex, or avoiding sex if it’s not on fertile days, is a sign that infertility has taken a toll on your relationship.

But you can achieve a healthy sex life again.

If Infertility Destroys Your Sex Life, Know You’re Not Alone

Many couples go through this.

Infertility is extremely stressful, and not just for one partner or in one area of life.

First there’s the frustration and disappointment of waiting and hoping for a child month after month. Then the stress of physically intrusive exams for either or both partners. Whether it’s male factor infertility or female infertility, or one both of you may be experiencing feelings of guilt or shame, sadness or frustration.

Additionally, you’re probably facing increasing scheduling stress, perhaps difficulty taking time off work. This leads to financial stress that’s exacerbated by the cost of all the procedures.

And last but not least, there’s the issue of sex on demand for months or even years. It’s no wonder infertility destroys your sex life.

Who wants to have sex when your body, mind, and wallet are all tangled in the emotional web of infertility?

Common Ways Infertility Destroys Your Sex Life

It’s easy to chalk everything up to stress, but taking a closer look, infertility undermines sex in a few specific ways.

Fear and anxiety

Both fear and anxiety can prevent you from having fulfilling sex with your partner.

Anxiety nags at you, wondering if you’ll get pregnant this time finally. Or that terrible thought you keep waving off, what if you get pregnant but can’t stay pregnant.

Then it’s fear that feeds you thoughts like, I’m not good enough. I failed my wife/husband because I can’t have a child. And the ultimate and unspoken fear, My partner will leave me because I can’t have a child.

When faced with fears like these, you hide to protect yourself. You’re left feeling broken and ashamed. And when you’re feeling afraid, broken, or ashamed, you don’t feel safe to open up and be truly intimate.

High levels of stress

We already listed many of the stressors that pile onto you and your partner through the infertility process, but let’s talk about what happens to your body and your mind within that stress.

Physically, you become tense. Tightly wound. You snap at each other. It seems like all your interactions turn into fights.

According to Dr. Emily Nagoski, professor and expert on women’s sexual wellbeing, stress and negative emotions negatively affect sex (Nagoski, 2015). When you’re not feeling good about yourself or the events in your life, you’re not going to feel good about having sex.

A recent article in Psychology Today explains that women going through infertility experience more grief, anxiety, and depression (Federico, 2021). Your self-esteem may also be suffering after finding out you can’t conceive.

All these stressors combined lead to decreased sex drive and lower your ability to enjoy the sex you do have.

Undermined trust in your partner

Throughout this infertility process, you’ve gone through some painful times.

Maybe your partner didn’t see how scared you were, and he wasn’t there for you at this critical moment. You needed him to hold you, or reassure you, and he closed off or disappeared.

This undermined trust in your relationship—made you feel like you can’t count on him.

It’s hard to be vulnerable during sex when you’re guarding yourself. And it’s hard to let go when you feel like he might not be there to catch you when you fall.

Emotional distancing

Emotional distancing is a common thread through each of these ways infertility destroys your sex life.

Stress pulls you apart from your partner, fear closes you off, and undermined trust leaves you guarded.

Emotionally distant partners aren’t drawn to each other for sex because there are emotional forces essentially pulling them apart.

Reclaim Your Sexuality Together with Couple’s Therapy

Even if infertility destroys your sex life for a while, you can reclaim it!

A healthy sex life is important for connection. It improves bonding between you and your partner. Particularly a type of therapy called Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) helps you rebuild trust and intimacy.

Research has shown that connected couples and those participating in EFT fare infertility better together. They experience less anxiety and depression (Soltani et al., 2014), are happier in their relationships (Najafi et al., 2015), and are often more motivated to continue with infertility treatment.

After all you’ve gone through, you and your partner can regain emotional connection that fosters trust and safety in your relationship. With those in place, fulfilling, passionate sex will follow.

EFT couples therapy for infertility can help you and your partner rebuild a healthy relationship and a healthy sex life.

About Dr. Irena

Dr. Irena has over 20 years of experience helping couples going through infertility. She can help you rediscover emotional connection and a healthy sex life through the research-proven method Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). She offers online therapy for women and couples in Houston, The Woodlands, and New York City.

If you would like to schedule a session, email Dr. Irena for a free 10-minute video consultation: [email protected] or call (281)-267-1742.

References

Federico, L. (2021). Infertility and Sex: How does the experience of infertility impact our sex lives? Psychology Today. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/identity-in-disruption/202101/infertility-and-sex

Nagoski, E. (2015). Come As You Are. Simon & Schuster.

Najafi, M., Soleimani, A. A., Ahmadi, K., Javidi, N., & Kamkar, E. H. (2015). The Effectiveness of Emotionally Focused Therapy on Enhancing Marital Adjustment and Quality of Life among Infertile Couples with Marital Conflicts. International Journal of Fertility and Sterility, 9(2), 238-246. https://doi.org/10.22074/ijfs.2015.4245

Soltani, M., Shairi, M. R., Roshan, R., & Rahimi, C. R. (2014). The impact of emotionally focused therapy on emotional distress in infertile couples. International Journal of Fertility and Sterility, 7(4), 337-344.

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