Infertility and its treatment may create low sexual desire in women. This can mean that a couple may attempt intercourse less often, making it even order to conceive. In fact, research shows that fertility is higher in couples that engage in frequent intercourse. The latest thinking is that frequent intercourse may cause a woman to release eggs at times outside of her regular cycle. It makes sense that the couple that has sex multiple times a month has a better chance of becoming pregnant.
As I discuss in my next book, Counseling Couples Before, During, and After Pregnancy: Sexuality and Intimacy Issues, infertility is a couples’ diagnosis. If a woman has low desire, she may reject her partner when it is time to have sex. This can lead to the male partner being discouraged. Then, both partners avoid sex and miss opportunities to get pregnant.
Sometimes women report having a higher interest in sex when they are trying to conceive. For them, sex may have a new, deeper meaning. The act of conception with their partner is even more intimate than intercourse. They may report that “baby-making sex” brings their relationship to another level of commitment.
But female desire can be low due to a number of reasons. One is that sex to get pregnant becomes a chore. Looking at ovulation charts and using ovulation tests can make sex seem too much like a medical procedure. Sex becomes “robotic” and quick, creating sexual dissatisfaction.
The second reason for low desire is that the woman feels responsible for the couple not conceiving. She may feel ashamed that she has disappointed not only her partner but her family. She may also be upset with her own body for not working properly, making it difficult to have sex that is fun, playful, or romantic.
A third reason, though hard to admit, is having mixed feelings about being pregnant, going through labor, or having less freedom after having a baby. Women are socialized that they are supposed to be excited about fulfilling the role of mother. This can make it difficult to talk openly about any worries about the drawbacks of motherhood.
Lastly, there can be physical reasons for a low drive. Any woman who has a big decline in her drive should talk to her physician. Low estrogen may be one problem, but a low thyroid or other things can also interfere. Simple blood tests can rule out these problems.
Women should not be afraid to talk about their low drive with their partner or providers. Avoiding the issues won’t make them go away. If it is difficult to talk to the partner, then the woman should seek out a therapist who can help her find the right words. The couple can also come into therapy to have a conversation about sex before, during, and after pregnancy. The best therapist may be a sex therapist who understands infertility and the connections between sex for recreation and procreation.