This is a guest post authored by sexologist Heather Howard, PhD founder of the Center for Sexual Health and Rehabilitation in San Francisco
“Doc, sex was fine before the baby-thing started. Now it’s by appointment and much harder for me. Help!” Hard to believe that it could happen to you, but it has. The mojo is gone-zo.
An Intimacy Primer
It’s common to see intimate relationships change during family building. These changes are further exaggerated by the sheer length of time (months to years) that it can take to conceive.
The first change you might notice is that sex is now scheduled and not recreational. All of a sudden, it is timed to a menstrual cycle. And, along with that, masturbation is reduced. What results from this? How about: lost fun, reduced pleasure, less touching, performance anxiety, decreased desire, sexual aversion, problems with arousal and erections, orgasmic difficulty, and lost intimacy. Add to this mix hormone therapy and surgical procedures for fertility and you have a perfect recipe for a newly baked sense of isolation or even shame. In addition, when sexuality falls by the wayside during mechanical acts of conception, the spirituality of it all may be lost.
Five Ways to Stay Connected
By staying connected during times of family building, your relationship may actually grow stronger, believe it or not. So, here are 5 ways to stay connected:
1. Do something silly. Sex may be scheduled, but other activities needn’t be. Throw a dinner party, make breakfast in bed, go out for cupcakes, go see a matinee or, better yet, a comedy show, read to each other or drop in on a dance class.
2. Take walks together. Shared nonsexual activity can be pure quality time. Exercise also reduces stress, improves your sex drive and keeps you healthier.
3. Touch regularly. Besides feeling good and communicating love and acceptance, skin-to-skin contact helps couples to bond, lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and the stress hormone cortisol. So hold hands, hug, cuddle, offer a shoulder massage, or schedule a date to just touch.
4. Find a space for connecting. Keep this separate from the space used for conception, so that your partner is viewed differently when you are there.
5. Start rituals to honor your goal. Light a candle, say a joint prayer, eye-gaze and tell each other things you love about the other, or some hopes or dreams of your own.
Any of these practices could greatly improve your quality of life in a potentially difficult and stressful time. Choose one tip and see how it works for you. Also consider reaching out to others in a similar situation at www.dailystrength.org/c/Trying-To-Conceive/support-group. If this isn’t working but you really would like things to change, specialists such as sexologists, sexuality counselors and therapists can be very helpful. You can find them at www.americancollegeofsexologists.org, www.americanboardofsexology.com, and www.AASECT.org. As Woody Allen once said: “Sex is the most fun you can have without laughing.” Let’s keep it that way.