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Conception sex: The best laid plans
November 10th, 2011
07:12 AM ET

Conception sex: The best laid plans

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him on his website, GoodInBed.

If you have kids or are hoping to get pregnant, you know all too well that trying to conceive is one of the few times when sex isn’t just about pleasure for pleasure’s sake.

In fact, unless you’re one of those couples that get pregnant right away, conception sex can become downright stressful. As a father of two boys, I understand that trying to conceive can start to seem pretty, well, trying.

According to one British survey, the average couple has sex 104 times before getting pregnant: four times a week on average over the course of six months. No wonder sex can start to feel like work. Here’s why:

You’re stuck with a schedule. Part of what makes sex so fun is that it can be spontaneous: Even if you’re always doing it in bed, at night, you at least have the option to have a hot hookup in your parked car or a little afternoon delight during your lunch break.

But when you’re trying to conceive, you become beholden to a schedule - one that’s dictated largely by biology and ovulation. This sense of pressure can make sex seem less like a decision based on desire and more like a boring chore to be checked off your to-do list, says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., author of “Sex and the Baby Years.”

You have to do it on demand. For many guys, the idea of a woman who wants a lot of sex all the time sounds great, right? And that’s how it seems when you start trying to conceive. After a while, though, this approach can get awfully old, and you can say goodbye to foreplay and any sort of emotional connection.

You might even start to feel like a sex object, as if she wants you only for your sperm. The same British survey confirms that experience, with 11% of men saying that conception sex made them feel “completely used." And it’s no easier for women. The free pass for constant sex can initially be a boon to women with high sex drives.

“Eventually, though, you may just start to view sex as a means to an end,” says Hutcherson. “One of my patients actually described yelling at her husband, ‘It doesn’t take that long! You don’t have to enjoy it! Just ejaculate!’”

You’re both under stress. Unless you get pregnant early on, the whole process of conception sex can start to wear on you both. You might end up having less sex - and less-pleasurable sex - as time passes. And if you can’t conceive right away, visits to your doc­tor for invasive fertility testing and treatments can make conception sex extra stressful.

One recent study published in Fertility & Sterility found that women who underwent treatment for infertility reported being less satisfied with their sex lives, had sex less often and felt less sexual desire than those with normal fertility. Other research suggests that coping with infertility and its treat­ments can have negative effects on a couple’s emo­tional well-being and can create relationship tension.

Your bedroom routine gets routine. No one wants to constantly do the same thing, the same way, at the same time and in the same place. If your sex life is starting to feel like the movie "Groundhog Day," it’s time to mix things up, even as you continue to try to get pregnant.

So what should you do? First, don’t limit sex to a woman’s fertile days.

“Some people believe that they should ‘save’ the man’s ejaculate until ovulation. That’s a myth,” says Hutcherson. “In fact, storing up sperm can decrease its motility.”

So enjoy sex whenever - and wherever - you want it. View conception sex as a time to build a solid foundation for your life as parents: Trust me, you’ll be facing even more challenges to your sex life then!


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