Maintaining a healthy sexuality

A variety of factors, both physical and psychological, can affect your sex life if you or your partner have MS. Keep in mind that there is no one definition of "healthy sexuality" – it is a personal expression of the needs and choices of you and your partner. Remember that life is a series of changes and that your ideas about sexuality may need to adapt as well.

Regain control of your sex life. For women with MS, vaginal dryness and loss of sensation may interfere with sexual intercourse. To alleviate vaginal dryness during intercourse, try using a lubricating gel. For men and women who experience a loss of sexual sensation or control as a result of their MS, there are devices and medications that can help. If you experience a decrease of physical sensation during sex, talk to your doctor or sexual therapist about ways that can help you and your partner.

Communicate! Many people with MS encounter changes in their self-esteem. As sexuality and self-esteem are frequently linked, it's important to speak to your partner about any anxieties you have. You may find that simply talking about your concerns helps to alleviate them, or that the intimacy of discussion fosters and strengthens your relationship. This, in turn, will enhance your sexual relations.

Try a different time of day. If you're too exhausted by the evening for sexual activity, set time aside earlier in the day when energy levels are higher.

If fatigue is overwhelming, remember that cuddling and kisses are part of our sexuality too and offer a great deal of pleasure. Sexual activity does not have to mean intercourse.

Keep a positive attitude. Sexuality involves love and affection with your partner. Reach out to each other for support.

Stay open and adaptable to new ideas. This may involve having to tape catheters out of the way, using vibrators to aid stimulation, or using medications or vacuum tubes to help achieve erection. Don't shy away from new ideas... you may find they work!

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-and-Sexuality

Let's talk sex

Many of us during different stages of life experience different problems related to sexual dysfunction. For men, sexual dysfunction includes not being able to achieve or maintain an erection and/or difficulty with ejaculation. For women, sexual dysfunction commonly refers to vaginal dryness (which can make sexual relations painful), loss of vaginal sensitivity, and difficulty in reaching orgasm.

Causes of sexual dysfunction and contributing factors
There are various causes of sexual dysfunction for someone living with MS, including:

  • lesions on the spinal cord
  • use of certain medications (such as antidepressants)
  • hormone deficiency with advancing age (menopause)

Other factors contributing to the cause of sexual dysfunction for people living with MS include:

  • Medical problems commonly experienced by someone with MS: Fatigue, pain, muscle spasms, and loss of bladder control are commonly experienced by someone diagnosed with MS. Any or all of these problems can lower the person's libido (sex drive), leading to "not tonight, dear."
  • Psychological factors: For many people living with MS, or those whose partners have MS, feelings of stress, anger, guilt, or disappointment may have a negative effect on self-image and self-esteem. These psychological issues may interfere with their personal relationship and their enjoyment of sex. If this affects you, try to talk openly about these problems with your partner and explore new ways to resolve these issues. Some people find the guidance of a trained counsellor or therapist useful in facilitating these discussions. For further information, read "Psychological issues around sexuality and MS" in this feature.
  • Other medical conditions: Some conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and enlarged prostate may also cause erectile problems.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-and-Sexuality

MS and fertility, contraception and sexually transmitted infections

Although MS may not directly decrease the fertility of men or women with the condition, it may indirectly contribute to sexual problems for both genders. Men who are concerned about fertility issues should talk to a urologist or fertility specialist about medications or techniques to collect and save sperm for insemination.

What about contraception for people with MS?
Most women who have MS continue to release ovarian eggs each month, so they can become pregnant unless they use some method of birth control.

Oral contraceptives, diaphragms, intrauterine devices (IUDs), condoms, or spermicidal foams and jellies can be used depending on the couple's choice, and with advice from their doctor. Talk to your doctor for the best recommendation that's suited to you and your partner.

Remember that women and men with MS need to take the same precautions regarding birth control and sexually transmitted infections as anyone else. If you have MS, you are still at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection unless you use proper and adequate protection.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-and-Sexuality

Psychological issues around sexuality and MS

Psychological factors relating to changes in sexual function can be very complex. They may involve depression, anxiety, anger, loss of self-esteem, and stress about living with a chronic illness. Also, coping and adapting may take time and energy for the person with MS as well as their partner.

If you have been recently diagnosed with MS, your sexual needs don't go away or become inappropriate. You can receive help in dealing with various psychological issues using counselling from a mental health professional or trained sexual therapist. To open up the lines of communication, this type of therapy should involve both partners.

Many couples maintain a positive sense of sexuality in the presence of MS and its symptoms. Communication is the key - between you and your partner. You may wish to involve your doctor or specialist too.

In addition, learn as much as you can about sexual functioning in relation to your condition. Knowing how your body works and exploring different areas of sexual activity can help you discover new ways of sexual enjoyment. This works for both couples and individuals. Remember too that a sense of humour can help you cope and maintain a positive attitude. Lastly, don't forget that having an enjoyable sex life is not necessarily the same as having sexual intercourse.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada offers a booklet called "Sexuality and Multiple Sclerosis," which you may find useful. Contact your local Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada office for more information. Marriage counsellors and others specializing in relationship problems can also provide help.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-and-Sexuality