Living with Erectile Dysfunction, Sexual Dysfunction and Infertility:
Many people do not realize the great number of individuals who experience sexual dysfunction. It is in fact extremely common, with reports of 31% of males and 43% of females having a minimum of one symptom. When couples have infertility issues, their sexual relationship can suffer adversely as a result of the requirement to “perform” at very specific times. Thus, engaging in sexual activity can become nothing more than a “chore” to just “get over with.”
What is sexual dysfunction?
Medical doctors divide normal sexual functioning into three distinct parts, including:
- desire (i.e. wanting to have sexual intercourse)
- arousal (i.e. the body goes through the physical changes required to have successful intercourse)
- orgasm (i.e. sudden discharge of the sexual tension accumulated during the sexual response cycle)
Sexual dysfunction, in both men and women, takes place when one’s health, relationship and/or ideas concerning sex result in problems with any or all of the above sexual functioning phases. For the purposes of this discussion, the focus will be on male sexual dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is the most common type of male sexual issues. Defined as the inability to obtain and/or sustain an erection long enough to perform successful sexual intercourse, this condition can be caused by many underlying medical problems including:
- Hypertension (i.e. elevated blood pressure)
- Diseases of the blood vessels
- After effects of bladder and/or genital surgeries
- Diseases of and/or injuries to the nerves
- Hormonal issues
- Side effect of certain drugs
When a doctor investigates a male’s sexual dysfunction, he or she will perform a complete physical examination as well as enquire about the patient’s previous medical and sexual histories. Hormonal levels will be checked to make sure they are neither too low nor too high.
Once the cause of a man’s sexual and/or erectile dysfunction has been determined, some kind of treatment will likely be needed to rectify the underlying problem(s). Prescription medications and/or various surgical procedures can effectively treat physical problems. If the problem is deemed to be psychological and/or relationship related, a referral to a sex therapist is usually recommended.
Erectile or sexual dysfunction can cause infertility (i.e. inability for a female to become pregnant). However, the stresses of attempting to get pregnant can also lead to sexual dysfunction! It can be a very frustrating and disappointing cycle of events, month after month.
Treatments used to address infertility can be intrusive, stressful as well as demanding emotionally. Partners are expected to engage in sexual relations at very specific times (i.e. around when the female is ovulating) even if they do not have the sexual or psychological desire to do so. In fact, some of the medications prescribed as part of infertility treatments can actually make it more difficult to engage in sex.
All of these factors can have negative effects on a couple’s sexual and personal relationship and possibly result in sexual dysfunction. The stress caused by the requirement to “ejaculate on demand,” can cause the male partner to experience erectile dysfunction. Both partners can experience reduced sexual desire that could warrant both individual and couple’s counselling by a certified sex therapist. Joining sexual dysfunction and/or infertility support groups can also be beneficial.
The following is a list of helpful resources to contact regarding sexual/erectile dysfunction and/or infertility:
- Sexual Dysfunction and Infertility:
Consult the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and Mental Health Professional Special Interest Group at: www.asrm.org.
- List of certified sex therapists within the United States:
Consult the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists at: www.aasect.org.
Additional fertility information and support groups:
June 29, 2014.