Navigating A Complicated Time
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a popular assisted reproductive technology (ART) that has helped countless women successfully have children. However, the process can be anxiety-inducing and put a strain on even the best of relationships. For many, IVF can take over everyday life as men and women prioritize the cycle’s success over all other activities. Many IVF participants wonder if sex should be put on hold during this time.
IVF and relationships
After trying to get pregnant unsuccessfully for 6 months to a year, many people turn to IVF to assist with conception. The process can be physically and mentally exhausting for all parties involved. Plus, the added expense and the requirement for hormone medications can put a strain on even the best of relationships. Completely abstaining from sex throughout a cycle can hamper a couple’s intimacy and closeness, making a tenuous situation worse.
Is sex off the table?
The short answer is no. Most fertility specialists won’t tell a couple to completely abstain from sex during a cycle. However, caveats exist. While sex is generally permitted, key moments exist during the cycle when people shouldn’t have intercourse to optimize the chances of success. Consider waiting to have intercourse during the following pivotal times.
When to wait pre-IVF
Women undergoing IVF pre-testing usually aren’t required to abstain. However, if a specialist recommends a semen analysis for a man, holding off on sex is a good idea. A semen analysis is meant to determine sperm quality and specifically look for proper quantity and motility. Typically, specialists will tell a man to avoid any sexual activity, including masturbation, during a 2-5 day window before providing a sample. Ejaculating right before a sample collection date can alter results and incorrectly change the recommended treatment course.
Sex during IVF
Most fertility doctors will give sex during IVF the green light. Still, couples will be cautioned to use some form of barrier method contraception such as a condom or diaphragm. This ensures that a natural pregnancy does not occur during IVF when a pre-selected embryo is implanted. However, depending on where within the stimulation phase a woman is, sex may not be enjoyable. In the early stages of IVF, sex most likely feels normal, but as the ovaries begin to enlarge from the increased hormone exposure, intercourse may become uncomfortable or even painful. Each situation is unique, and couples are encouraged to use discretion.
The pivotal transfer
The embryo transfer period is a rare time during IVF when sex is strongly forbidden. Healthcare providers will encourage a couple to wait 5-7 days after the transfer before having sex. Formally referred to as pelvic rest, the sex pause gives the embryo sufficient time to successfully implant into the uterine wall. Women that have just completed a transfer are encouraged to speak with a fertility specialist to determine when intercourse can resume.
Maintaining intimacy during IVF
Sex is permissible during most stages of IVF, but anxiety and other strains can make the thought of physical intimacy unappealing. However, men and women are encouraged to maintain a closeness during this often stressful and challenging time. Keep in mind that intimacy isn’t limited to just sex. Sharing feelings and simply spending time together are also great ways to strengthen romantic bonds. The fertility specialist can help answer any specific questions patients have about sex during fertility treatment.