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My wife and I have been trying to get pregnant for over a year. She’s been charting her ovulation so that we can have sex when she’s most fertile. It seems like we’re having sex because we have to, not because we want to. There’s no passion or pleasure anymore, only pressure to get it up and get it over with. Sometimes I can’t even get aroused. How do we get out of this rut?

Written by our mental health expert, Dr. Emily Koert, Registered Clinical Counsellor. 

Many couples trying to conceive find themselves in a similar “rut” in their sex lives – a rut that seems to get deeper the longer they’ve been trying. Sex typically becomes less spontaneous and can begin to feel more like “work” than play. As well, particularly for the woman, sex can start to be related to a sense of failure and disappointment every time she has her period. As the months keep passing by, and you’re still not pregnant, the sense of pressure, obligation, and failure can grow – which can undoubtedly have an negative effect on your intimate lives.

Despite these common reactions, there are several things that can help you to feel connected and intimate towards your wife, and help maintain a satisfying sex life while you’re trying to get pregnant.

Nurture your relationship

Trying to conceive without success can place a huge burden on your relationship in general, which inevitably will have an impact on what happens in the bedroom. Remind yourself that you’re a team – you both want to have a child, and you’re working on this together. Instead of focusing all of your energy on trying to have a baby, spend time nurturing your relationship. Do thoughtful things for each other, make time for quality time together outside of the bedroom, and make an effort to keep the lines of communication open. It is also really important to accept that you may have different ways of reacting to the stress of trying to get pregnant, and that there is no one “right” way to cope with the pressure and disappointments.

Separating “work sex” and “sex for pleasure”

Separate those few times a month when your wife is ovulating and the goal of having sex is to conceive from the times when you have sex because you feel attracted to one another and want to be intimate. Some couples use different rooms in their house for each type of sex – for example, procreative sex happens in the guest room whereas the rest of your love-making happens in other areas in your house. Make an effort to plan romantic time together when your wife isn’t ovulating. Importantly, during these times, make feeling intimate the goal, rather than having sex or conceiving. Give each other a massage, take a bubble bath together, engage in some sexual “play” – remind each other of the way you enjoyed being intimate when you weren’t trying to have a baby, and try to reconnect with those feelings and pleasurable times.

Plan fun time together

Couples who have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for many months often say that their lives start to revolve around getting pregnant. It becomes all they think about, talk about, and focus on. They start to feel like they ARE their fertility, and they forget what it was like to be a carefree, fun-loving couple. Make time to do things together that you both enjoy – be that couple you were a year ago, before you started trying to have a baby. Plan a date night, cook a romantic dinner at home, plan a weekend get-away to your favourite spot, or do something active together like hiking, kayaking, or running. The key is to try to enjoy life and each other while you’re trying to conceive.

When in doubt, seek help from the experts

If you find that things aren’t improving after trying some of these strategies, don’t wait until things get really bad before reaching out for help. Seek counselling from a local mental health professional. You may want to ask your family doctor for a referral. With the assistance of a trained therapist or counsellor who works in this area, you are more likely to be able to work through the issues and to rebuild a satisfying sex life.

Stay hopeful

While many couples find that their sex lives become strained while trying to conceive, many also report that they feel a greater sense of intimacy and connection with each other after making their way through the experience as a united team, focused on the goal of trying to become parents together.

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