Deciding it’s time to start trying to have a baby can be one of the most exciting decisions in life! For many couples, the inner dialogue looks like this:
“OMG it’s here! I can’t wait for all the cute clothes and baby smiles and snuggles. My partner is going to be such a good parent. My family will be so excited for us. Let’s google some names….
Hmmm…wait a minute…
What happens if we can’t get pregnant right away? Where’s that app my friend told me about that tracks ovulation? Cervical mucus, what?! What if I/my partner has a complicated pregnancy? OMG we have a family history of ______. Google says I have to keep track of x, y, and z if I want ANY chance at all of making this happen. Sex every day?! Is that possible? What is the soonest possible date a pregnancy test is accurate? How accurate are pregnancy tests? Is my insurance good enough for all of this? I might as well just go ahead and reach out to an infertility specialist now.”
The excitement can quickly turn to fear. As many parents know, signing up for parenthood is essentially trying to balance the joy and excitement of having a child while not getting caught up in the very scary rabbit holes the mind quickly travels to the moment something (even a minor thing) doesn’t go as planned.
That fear not only affects our mental and emotional health, but also can make things more difficult in the bedroom. Don’t get me wrong, for many people, trying to conceive increases gratification in their sex lives. But for many others, the stress of worry and hope can get in the way of satisfying intimacy. This is because there is a lot of pressure when it comes to conception! Not only the pressure of the desire for a child, but the pressure of unwelcome advice, unrealistic cultural and societal expectations about fertility journeys, and overconsumption of information that we can so easily access in today’s world.
I say it all the time…when pressure is present, pleasure can rarely coexist. So the idea is to take pressure off of the whole process. Let’s work on preserving the satisfying parts of intimacy, paying attention to what feels new about sex while trying to conceive, and relieve the negative messages that put pressure on intimacy during this time of exciting change. Here are a few things to consider if sex is becoming more of a chore than a sensual experience:
1. Take a break…not just from sex, but from all the tracking and tests.
When you google “how to get pregnant” you will find a very long list of tasks, things to track, and things you aren’t allowed to do anymore. And I mean a LONG list. It gets overwhelming very quickly. And the pressure to have sex every day can be overwhelming too! So give yourself and your partner(s) permission to take a break from it all. Even better…give yourself permission to NOT take any ovulation tests or track all your symptoms right from the start. If for some reason you do start to worry about your fertility, consult your doctor and take up the practices they recommend. But you don’t need to do it all right away.
2. Get off the schedule, if that works for you
For some, scheduling sex works really well! If that is you, great! Keep doing what you are doing. For others, scheduling sex puts undue pressure on one or both parties and eventually can lead to exhaustion (mental and physical) and or resentment. Give yourself room to have sex when it comes naturally to you.
3. Have sex when you are not ovulating or outside when the doctor instructs you to
Many people get caught up in only having sex when one partner is ovulating. I have seen this scenario often lead to the feeling that sex is a chore. Many times one partner starts to feel like they are being used for sex and that the other partner doesn’t value intimacy with them outside of the goal of having a child. Make it a point to include sexuality and intimacy on days where conceiving is less likely.
4. Connect intimately in other ways
Don’t forget to date! Remember to connect intimately through flirting, dating, romance, dancing, cuddling, making out, stimulating conversation, etc. Be intentional about making room for romance in your relationship now so that when the baby comes, you will not completely lose yourselves in the role of parenthood. You will still need to connect with your partner(s). Now is the time for good practice!
5. Tune out the noise
One common experience on the fertility journey and for new parents is the headache of unsolicited advice and unhelpful comments.
“I got pregnant on my first try! It was so easy!”
“You shouldn’t have a glass of wine if you are trying to get pregnant”
“Right before you have sex, eat a lemon, face east during intercourse and then do a headstand for at least 10 minutes afterward.”
I joke, but seriously, the advice and comments will only get more intense during pregnancy and when a child arrives. So be very intentional about who you share information with. Also, take care of yourself when you come in contact with this advice. Turn off the tv, put Dr. Google away, leave a conversation that makes you uncomfortable.
6. Have sex and/or orgasms without penetration once in a while
For many relationships, sex without penetration is what is most satisfying. Many women can only orgasm through clitoral stimulation (and this is completely normal!). So penetrative sex isn’t nearly as gratifying. There are a multitude of activities that fall under the category of sex that do not include intercourse at all. And a lot of people really enjoy those activities! If you don’t want to take a break from sex, then at least take a break from penetrative sex. Enjoy using a vibrator, blow jobs, touching, etc. Again, it also reminds your partner(s) that you value intimacy with them, not just for having a baby.
7. Spend time by yourself
I really cannot stress enough the value of good self-care. You and your partner(s) will need a break from each other. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It just means you are human. I’ll say it again, take a break! Yes, even from each other. By the way, self-pleasure is a great way to spend that time!
8. Limit your sources of information
There are an endless amount of books, websites, and people where you can get information from on your fertility journey. So much in fact, that it is overstimulating and overwhelming. Those words don’t usually coincide well with “sexy”. I recommend limiting yourself to 5 sources of information. Three of those being your doctor (please find a doctor that listens to you and takes you seriously!), your partner(s) and yourself. The other two can be from a book or website of your choice. And guess what?! It by no means has to be the same book or website your parents or friends used! Another option may be a close and trusted family member or friend.
Yes, this journey can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. There is room for joy, excitement, pleasure and intimacy. Sometimes we just have to be intentional about making room for those things. If you ever feel like it is all too much, you are not alone! It is totally ok to be worried. Working with a good sex therapist may be able to help you relieve the pressure and work toward enjoying the process.