Today's no-shit study says infertility can do a number on a couple's sex life. Just like fertility!
According to Slate's Sarah Elizabeth Richards, researched the Stanford have found that 40% of women dealing with infertility also suffer sexual problems, like lack of arousal and desire, compared to only 25% of women in general. Hormone shots may be part of the cause, but researchers think the problems are mostly psychological. Therapist Ronny Diamond says that for infertile women, "Sex, rather than being a place where you can escape the world, becomes a reminder of what you can't do. You can't make a baby." She adds that the scheduled sex mandated by fertility treatments can be a turnoff: "When the woman calls her husband at work and says 'I'm ovulating. Come home. We've got to do it now,' it ruins people's ideas of romantic conception."
None of this is a shock, unfortunately — as Richards notes, "anyone who has had trouble getting or staying pregnant knows that infertility is hard on relationships," and it's not surprising that it can reduce sex drive as much as it increases conflict. But it's interesting to note how many of the problems caused by infertility can also be caused by its opposite — efforts to have sex without having a baby. Birth control pills, for instance, can lower libido and mess with body image and mood. Anybody who's ever found a lost NuvaRing in the bed several days later knows how much fun that is, as do those who've experienced side effects from Plan B. And there's always the fear of these or other methods failing — an occasional mood-killer, I'd wager, for even the most careful contraceptor. It's true that one of the perks of protected sex is relative freedom from worry — that "place where you can escape the world" — but just as no fertility treatment is guaranteed to generate a pregnancy, no birth control is 100% guaranteed to prevent one.
All this is not to trivialize the troubles of infertile women, who, if the Stanford study is correct, are disproportionately suffering. Rather, I'd like to point out that 25% — the number of fertile women who experience sexual problems — is still really high. This may be in part because women still bear the responsibility for the reproductive aspects of sex. Some of this is biological — we are the ones with the wombs — but some of it is social: women are the ones judged when they don't procreate, or when they get pregnant too young or out of wedlock. And the fact that all the myriad forms of hormonal birth control, with all their myriad side effects, must pass through our bodies is surely due in part to where the research money goes. A male birth control pill would sure be nice, but so would a general recognition that whether the goal is preventing or creating a pregnancy, men need to be equal partners.
When Sex Becomes A Chore [Slate]