I was watching a marathon of old 90's sitcoms the other evening and saw an episode in which the main couple was trying to have a baby. The plot revolved around the wife’s crazy sex scheduling and the partner’s exhaustion and attempts to hide from her. It made for some very funny TV, but it also made me wonder about the realism of the story. Were couples trying to conceive really so focused on their goal that sex completely takes over their lives? If so, is filling every possible free moment with sex the best way to get pregnant?

Many studies have been done in an effort to illuminate the issues of infertility and how they can be handled by couples trying to have children. Several of these have explored the impact infertility and the active attempt to have children has made on the actual sexual intimacy of the couple. Most couples report having more sex due to their issues with infertility, but a less satisfying, less intimate sex life. These couples feel the act of sex is no longer about expressing love and enjoying the intimacy within their marriage. Rather, each time the couple engages in sex, it is a means to an end. Infertility also places a wide open window on the sexual activities of couples trying to have a child. Physicians want to know all of the details about when, where, how, and how often couples are having sex so they may be able to indicate issues within the pattern or offer suggestions for changing sexual behaviors that may be contributing to their infertility. This takes away a tremendous amount of the closeness and intimacy for the couple, turning their lovemaking instead into a clinical experiment.

Couples who report decreased satisfaction in their sex lives may be engaging in actual sexual intercourse more often than other couples, but that does not mean they are going to conceive more easily. More often than not, in fact, having sex too often and focusing too hard on the concept of conceiving is a major part of the problem. A woman who is feeling under major pressure to conceive may be very tense during intercourse. This tension makes it very difficult for her body to react in the appropriate ways to facilitate conception. Couples are encouraged to relax, take a step back from their infertility obsession, and remember why they ever had sex in the first place—so that they could enjoy love and intimacy. Having sex just to enjoy it can sometimes prove highly effective, particularly in preserving the emotional bond of the relationship.

Source: Greil Arthur, et al. Sex and Intimacy among Infertile Couples. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality. Volume 2, Issue 2, 1990.