What's the problem? One husband explains, "When we threw away the condoms, I thought that meant we'd get to have spontaneous, uninhibited sex. Instead it was just the opposite. We had to schedule intercourse to correspond with my wife's ovulation, and limit ourselves to a couple of positions because they offered maximum penetration."
The experience can be equally frustrating for women. "I wanted it to be a beautiful thing—that we loved each other enough to create a baby together," says one mom-to-be. "But the reality was more like some weird science experiment."
According to psychotherapist Lenore Pomerance, the key to a better sex life is learning to separate fertility from sexuality. "There's a vast difference between sex for pleasure and sex for conception, and couples who recognize this can avoid blaming, feeling guilty, or getting turned off by sex for conception," she says.
Pomerance points out that this separation is most essential when your efforts aren't immediately successful. "I've had couples express fears that they couldn't get pregnant because the sex wasn't good enough, or the love failed—which, of course, has nothing to do with fertility. When partners start feeling flawed or inadequate because they haven't conceived right away, they grow depressed and their sexual feelings are affected."
1. Start learning about "reality sex." Pomerance says, "Couples who are disappointed by babymaking sex are often hanging on to a fantasy about what lovemaking is 'supposed' to be—romantic, spontaneous, always satisfying, and not requiring communication or effort to get or stay that way. The reality is that sex can be many, many things. If a couple is connected enough emotionally and physically, they can let go of the fantasy and learn how to make the reality feel good."
2. Keep your sense of humor. Viewed objectively, sex, conception, and becoming a parent are three of the funniest conditions in the human experience. Couples who can laugh at themselves often end up closer, sexually and otherwise, than they were before trying to conceive. One new mom who had to undergo two years of fertility treatments says that laughter is what got her through. "In spite of all our best efforts, we ended up having to conceive by intrauterine insemination. If we hadn't been able to joke about the 'turkey baster,' we'd probably be divorced now instead of expecting our second child."
3. Have hot, spontaneous sex the rest of the month. By definition, you can only have babymaking sex during the three- to five-day window when you're fertile each month. That leaves nearly four weeks for recreational fun! Try to get in some tender lovemaking as well as swinging from the chandelier. And take time to share your feelings about your sexual connection. Couples who start working to keep it healthy now reap big benefits when they become parents.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Stein, CNM