This is a guest post from MeiMei Fox, who moderated a session I participated in at Fertility Planit LA this past weekend. MeiMei is the published author, co-author, ghostwriter, and freelance editor of hundreds of non-fiction health, wellness, spirituality, and psychology books, articles, and blogs, including New York Times bestsellers Bend, Not Break with Ping Fu and Fortytude with Sarah Brokaw. She has edited books by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Columbia professor Robert Thurman, and was Expedition Writer for Alexandra Cousteau’s 2009 Expedition: Blue Planet. She blogs weekly for the Huffington Post, and her articles have been published in Self, Stanford magazine, MindBodyGreen, Forbes, and numerous other publications.
So you’re trying to get pregnant. Most friends you share this news with will give you a wink and a nudge and say, “Hey, what could be more fun?”
But if you’ve slammed headfirst into the frustrating, agonizing disappointment that is infertility, you know such is (tragically) not always the case. Sex can lose its spice when it has to take place in certain positions on certain days of the month, or when you’re injecting yourself with crazy-making hormones. Previously joyful romps can become mechanical and fraught with emotional and financial weight. I mean, who is really going to get turned on by their partner declaring over dinner dishes, “Honey, it’s that time! Let’s get down to business.”
I lead a panel on this topic last Friday at the Fertility Planit conference in Los Angeles. The two-day event, which takes place in LA and New York, offers anyone and everyone who is interested in building a family an opportunity to learn from experts, ask questions, and explore services offered. Subjects covered include IVF, egg donation and surrogacy; fertility preservation and egg freezing; single moms and dads by choice; acupuncture and optimizing your health; adoption and fostering to adopt; coping with infertility; choosing not to be a parent, and much more.
I asked several of Fertility Planit’s expert speakers and organizers to contribute their wisdom on keeping sex passionate while trying to conceive. Here’s what they had to share.
Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz: OBGYN, Integrative Health Doctor, Mother of Two
It’s really important to continue to date and keep the romance alive. This is critical for new parents as well, so get in the habit now. You definitely both need reminders of why you even wanted to make babies to begin with, right?
Research shows that novelty is super-important over the long haul in any relationship. This is an area that requires conversation. Talk about fantasies and boundaries, then surprise sext, make a plan for a lunchtime quickie, or role-play.
Do things to make yourself feel sexy: buy or wear lingerie, greet your partner at the door in nothing but a robe, etc.
There are very important physiological reasons and consequences for all of this.
Estrogen and testosterone increase feelings of attraction and attractiveness. They also increase lubrication, blood flow and sensitivity in the genital organs. Release of dopamine and testosterone in fantasy and anticipation also lead to increased genital blood flow. Orgasms and even just loving physical touch produce higher levels of oxytocin, the hormone of boding and love. Orgasms also produce high levels of calming progesterone and bliss, promoting endorphins in men and women. All of these factors can contribute to helping you get pregnant.
Dr. Paul Turek: Founder and Director, The Turek Clinic
In my experience taking care of men’s sexual health issues for over 20 years in two large California cities, questions about how men can keep sex passionate hardly ever come up! In fact, men even get (playfully) angry when they conceive too early after a vasectomy reversal, telling me: “I spent all that money and went through all that pain for a measly two months of good sex?!”
Having said this, with many men, scheduled sex is a stressor, and stressors can pull the romance plug. Furiously chasing details at work and then fighting snarled traffic on the way home leads to as much romance as a heart attack and make it that much harder to provide wood-on-demand.
For men, the easiest path to romantic sex is to kill the stress button: idle for a while, buy some flowers, ditch the cell phone, disconnect from wifi, and begin to anticipate sex. Create some free play for more foreplay. And if that’s not enough, realize that you’ve got some lead time, as sperm lasts a good day or two inside of her and morning is just around the corner.
Sara Naab: Co-founder Trak Fertility, Mother of Two
1. Create a ritual of care
When dealing with the stress of trying to conceive, my husband and I carved out one night of the week to be a ritual of caring for each other. We called it our Tuesday Night. We would trade off making each other’s favorite dinners and have dessert, too (a super key part of the evening!). We’d share a shower and give each other spa treatments–exfoliating scrubs, facials, etc. We’d dim the lights, light candles and pretend the night was special. We would set aside life. Fostering that space facilitates trust, opens lines of communication and fills each other’s buckets.
2. Make space for him
It’s hard to recognize the stress that a man can go through during all of this. He may have a vision for family, thoughts about the journey, fears and unspoken emotions.
Open lines of communication by getting him to talk about fertility stuff while doing something else. Chatting side by side (e.g., in the car) can be easier than face to face. Men also like analogies, humor and other forms of indirect communication.
Remember to give him time to process, and try to withhold judgment of his emotions.
3. Engage all the senses
Sex stands at the sweet spot of a mental and biological phenomenon. Finding different ways to heighten sensory feedback can turn on other parts of the brain and heighten excitement.
4. Develop a sense of humor
Sometimes you can find intimacy in mechanical sex just by joking about it. Be honest about how ridiculous it is for both of you. If you have the expectation that it’s always going to be amazing, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. But being able to joke about the times that are less than amazing can deepen your underlying love bond, enabling you to enjoy more deeply spontaneous, passionate moments when
Stacie Krajchir: Writer, Producer, Mother of One
My husband, God bless him, took charge of our fertility and became the self-appointed “ovulation calendar tracker,” which really helped a lot. On “sex days,” he would alert me in a humorous way, either with a sexy, sarcastic text or a funny Post-it note. It showed me he was present and paying attention. It also demonstrated that he really wanted to make this happen–and that, to me, was sexy.
Mixing things up on ovulation days is one way to keep things sexy. Maybe try a little role playing, the whole “stranger in a bar” act, or something as simple as taking the day off from work to allow sex to happen in a more spontaneous way. It’s hard to walk in the door at 6 pm knowing “it” has to happen in the next three hours or oops!
You missed your window. At the same time, it’s okay to agree to quickies on certain sex days, so you both just have a break from the romance.