Sex & Infertility Treatment
“Listen to your body,” she explains. “There is nothing unsafe about having sexual intercourse while cycling, but many women who are using injectable medication for IUI or IVF may experience enlarged ovaries, which might make intercourse uncomfortable. While they're in that pre-egg retrieval period of a treatment cycle, normal relations are perfectly fine if it's not pain-inducing."
She explains that there are only a few times in a treatment cycle that intercourse is discouraged.
Abstaining For Optimal Semen Sample
The first is when the male partner is asked to produce a semen sample for either a semen analysis or for an Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Our physicians recommend that the man abstain from any form of ejaculation for two to three days prior to collecting to insure a complete and reliable sample. Dr. Esposito says that there can be some negative effects to abstaining for longer periods than the recommended time.
"Some patients go overboard and abstain for a lot longer than three days because they're thinking it will result in a build-up of new sperm cells," Dr. Esposito says. "The truth is that too much time between ejaculations might actually wind up in dead cells clogging the tubules possibly resulting in additional problems."
IVF Treatment & Intercourse
The other time intercourse may be discouraged is following an embryo transfer during an IVF cycle. This period called "pelvic rest" is recommended anywhere from five days to two weeks after transfer – when a pregnancy test can be reliably administered. This rest gives the embryo optimal time to implant into the uterine wall. Most IVF patients can resume normal sexual activity a week or two after their embryo transfer, but always check with your doctor or nurse prior.
IUI Treatment & Intercourse
If a couple is undergoing an IUI, there are few restrictions on intercourse since implantation doesn't occur for about a week afterward. In fact, Dr. Esposito explains that there actually may be benefits to having sex following the IUI.
“During an IUI cycle, we may encourage the couple to have intercourse the evening after the insemination,” said Dr. Esposito. “This not only provides the couple time to be intimate, but it also may help increase the chances of fertilization by adding to the sperm that had been introduced during the insemination.”
Dr. Esposito says that during any cycle it is normal to expect some minor bleeding as a result of intercourse due to the highly vascular tissues of the female reproductive system. But if a patient experiences pain with the bleeding, she should refrain from intercourse.
Encouraging Intimacy During Treatment
Dr. Esposito heartily encourages patients not to lose sight of their relationship’s need for intimacy during fertility treatment. She adds that sex is a normal part of a couple’s relationship and that you shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk with your physician about being intimate during your treatment cycle.
“It's stressful enough to go through infertility and then make the choice to enter treatment that I don’t want them to totally sacrifice their relationship," she says. “I tell my patients that they should do whatever they need to continue having fun during their fertility treatment!"
Looking for tips on staying intimate during your fertility treatment? Sharon Covington, Director of Psychological Support at Shady Grove Fertility provides suggestions on how to keep the romance alive while trying to conceive.