It is natural to be concerned about what is safe and what is not when it comes to your body and infertility treatment. Of course, you are going through a lot by committing to this process and you want to make sure that you aren't doing anything to mess it up. Many people wonder if they should abstain from sex during infertility treatment. The general answer is no, you do not have to.
However, there are some brief periods of time where abstinence may be recommended to you by your doctor depending on the status of or your reaction to the treatment. It is also recommended to keep sex to a minimum if your male partner has a naturally low sperm count in general for preservation reasons.
In other cases, make sure that you are listening to your body and doing what you feel comfortable with. Everyone’s body reacts differently to treatment and it is possible that you won’t even want to engage in intercourse. Yet, some therapists recommend it, as it may be good for the relationship and infertility can sometimes take a toll on the romantic side of things.
Below we will explore the different types of treatment, how sex may come into play, and when it is typically recommended to do it or not to do it.
The Different Types of Treatment
Monitored Clomid Cycle
There is a treatment that consists of the female taking medication called clomid, which aims to induce ovulation. Once ovulation occurs, the couple is instructed by the doctor to have intercourse at home in order to attempt an accurately timed conception. This is an example of when intercourse is necessary to carry out the fertility treatment.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
During IUI treatment, there are certain points in time when intercourse is not recommended. The most discouraged time is the day following the “trigger shot”. The trigger shot is what allows the egg to reach final maturity and move into the fallopian tubes. Intercourse is, however, encouraged the night of the trigger shot to ensure a supply of sperm is present in the fallopian tubes once the egg arrives.
Abstinence is suggested the following day so that the male’s sperm count is able to reaccumulate and can produce a good sample for the actual IUI, which usually is scheduled to take place 36 hours after the trigger shot. There have been instances when the female patient has produced too many follicles during medicated IUI cycles, which creates the concern that she could produce too many eggs during ovulation. This creates a very high risk for multiples and doctors will stop stimulation medication and ask for patients to abstain from sex during the rest of the treatment.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Sex is usually ok during IVF as long as the couple uses a condom or some other type of barrier contraceptive. This is to, again, prevent the possibility of multiple pregnancy. Hyper stimulation may also occur here, causing the patient to create too many follicles. If this happens, sex is discouraged in order to avoid any further complications.
Post Embryo Transfer
Doctors will ask that a couple abstains from having sex following the embryo transfer during IVF, FET, or a donor egg cycle. This allows for “pelvic rest” which should last for about a week long after the transfer so the embryo has enough time to implant properly. After or week or two, patients can resume their normal sex life, but this should all be based on the doctor’s advice.
Intimacy and It’s Effects On Stress
Studies have shown that relationships are at high risk for stress and insecurity during infertility treatment. Women undergoing the treatments reported having less interest in sex, so it is not at all surprising that relationships tend to suffer as a result. This is bound to cause some stress between the couple. That isn’t to say that women should still try to engage in sex in order to save the relationship.
Treatments have been known to cause vaginal sensitivity, discomfort, or simply make a woman feel unsexy. In any case, it is important to keep the communication open about this so feelings aren't hurt and the relationship isn’t compromised. Your doctor can offer some great insight on this topic and talking about it will help to reassure the both of you that this is normal.
Ask your fertility specialist for a recommendation if you feel you need more assistance with communication. Some of these topics are not easy ones to broach and it is understandable that you may need some guidance. Remember the importance of keeping your relationship healthy during this time. There is a lot going on and it can tend to get put on the back burner. Do what you can to work together and keep the relationship nurtured and strong.