A study in the November issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility has gone into territory not many researchers have opted to explore – namely how dealing with infertility affects a woman’s sexual function, and if it leads to more sexual dysfunction. So far, the research has shown a link – namely that complaints relating to sex are more common in infertile women. This study, which was done in Turkey with a small group of Muslim women, looked in particular at women dealing with primary infertility (meaning they had never conceived) and compared them with those with secondary fertility (women who had conceived at least once before, regardless of the outcome of the pregnancy, though many had lost the pregnancy).
The study showed that sexual dysfunction – which can include impaired desire; difficulty in arousal or orgasm; and pain during intercourse – was very common in women struggling with infertility, and more so in women with secondary infertility, especially with regard to arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction with sex. It may be that having lost a previous pregnancy -- as many of the women had -- played a role in predisposing some women to sexual problems, including increasing their risk for anxiety and depression, which are linked to sexual dysfunction.
The truth is, sexual problems are very common: According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men say they have at least one symptom. When it comes to infertility it can be a chicken-and-egg thing too: Sexual dysfunction can hurt your fertility, and infertility can lead to problems in the bedroom, of course. If you suspect you have a problem and want to talk to someone, whether on your own or as a couple, ASRM recommends consulting a certified sex therapist through the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (www.aasect.org).