According to a new study, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is taking a huge toll on women’s sex lives and sexual desire.
We spent years trying to conceive our first child – three to be exact. When the knowledge of our multiple miscarriages surfaced, some people would try to bring some levity to the situation by saying things like, “Well, at least you can have fun trying again!”
When you are trying for a pregnancy that just isn’t happening – there is a lot of sex involved. There is also a lot of measuring of temperature, charting ovulation, and thinking about positions that will optimally deliver the sperm to its destination. Doesn’t that sound fun? With all of these considerations in place, it is pretty unavoidable that sex becomes a methodical routine. I am well versed in searching for some kind of sexual pleasure while navigating infertility. I can tell you firsthand that it is not something that women talk much about.
Which is why I am not surprised to read the results of a new study, concluding that sexual problems are common among women pursuing IVF. IVF is the process by which an egg is fertilized by sperm outside of the body, and then transferred back into the uterus. It’s clinical – by definition. Study author Jody Lynee Madeira, an associate professor in the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, told The Huffington Post:
“Women undergoing IVF report much lower scores in sexual interest, desire, orgasm, satisfaction, sexual activity and overall sexual function. Sex becomes mechanical and enforced: a means to an end, rather than a source of pleasure.”
The study included 120 women who had been diagnosed as infertile, and their partners. They filled out online surveys, and some couples even did interviews with the researchers.
Almost 70 percent of the male and female respondents said that the IVF had hurt their sexual relationship, and just over half of the women reported reduced arousal.
It did not matter whether male or female factors were the cause of the couple’s infertility, participants reported similar sexual problems regardless. The more cycles of IVF a couple went through, the greater its impact on overall sexual function.
It is a very expensive procedure, costing on average $12,000- $18,000. Only 13 states have laws that require insurance companies to cover infertility treatments. Imagine adding the stress of that price tag to an already emotionally exhausting struggle with infertility. I can personally attest to feeling defeated and depressed when I was struggling with infertility – I can’t imagine adding the weight of such a financial gamble.
It’s refreshing to know that studies like this one are happening, though. The more research we do, the more women can learn that they are not alone in feeling depressed about their sexuality when they are trying to conceive. Infertility doesn’t have to be the closeted shame-fest we’ve made it. It’s normal to feel depressed about your sexuality when it becomes a means to a seemingly unreachable end. There is no shame in that.
“It’s something that is never talked about, ever,” said Pamela Fawcett Pressman, a licensed professional counselor who has written about the topic for Resolve, the National Infertility Association.
Pressman agreed that scant resources are available to women dealing with the sexual problems that accompany fertility treatment. “I want to scream this as loudly as possible: People need to know that this is normal!” Pressman said of women and couples going through IVF. “Infertility really is that hard.”