Multiple Sclerosis and Your Sex Life
If you have multiple sclerosis, you may feel comfortable talking to your doctors about symptoms like fatigue, pain, numbness, or tingling. But if you’re experiencing some difficulty getting aroused, reaching orgasm, or feel pain during sex, chances are, you’re less likely to bring up these issues with your physician. According to a recent report, nearly two-thirds of people with MS reported a decline in sexual activity since they’ve been diagnosed. Find out how MS is probably the cause of your dwindling sex life and simple solutions to quickly remedy the problem.
How Multiple Sclerosis Affects Sex
Most of the health problems that result from MS occur because of changes in the patient’s central nervous system, says Rosalind Kalb, PhD, clinical psychologist, National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Nerve damage interferes with the transmission of messages from the brain to the spinal cord to your sex organs, so when those pathways aren’t delivering messages in the way they should (i.e., “I’m kissing my partner and feeling aroused”), it can impact your sex life.
If you’re a man with MS, you may experience difficulty achieving or maintaining erections, or even reaching orgasm. If you’re a woman with MS, you might not get aroused as easily, may have vaginal dryness, and you may have trouble climaxing. Suffering from problems with your bladder or bowels related to MS can also affect your desire to have sex.
There’s also a good chance you’re feeling overwhelming fatigue and may simply be too worn out to even care about sex or have the energy to get things started with your partner at the end of the day. If you’re a woman with MS, you might not feel like initiating sex, and your body might not respond in the same positive it way it did when your partner gets things started. It’s also common for men to experience a loss of libido or interest, or find that they’re not as easily aroused as they used to be.
Changing Up Your Sex Life for the Better
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your sex life. Number one? Start talking. One of the biggest issues with MS patients’ sex life complications is that they’re not discussing these problems with their doctors or their partners, according to Pat Kennedy, RN, CNP, MSCN, nurse educator at Can Do Multiple Sclerosis. And while you and your physician might both feel awkward talking about sex, if your doctor doesn’t bring it up during your appointment, make sure that you ask your sex questions before leaving the examination room.
“The more likely you are to recognize that the change in your sexuality is related to MS, the less likely you are to be embarrassed about it because you’ll know that it’s just part of the disease,” says Kalb.
It’s also crucial that you chat with your partner about what’s going on so he or she doesn’t take your less enthusiastic response to his or her advances or inability to climax personally and feel rejected.
Next, do your “homework” by trying different things with your partner to learn what feels pleasurable now that your body responds differently to touch. A sexual position or type of touch that used to feel good may cause sensory symptoms that are unpleasant like numbness, tingling, or pain, says Kalb. Try different positions and new ways of giving stimulation to each other. It’s also smart to spend time exploring your entire body on your own to determine the kind of touch and locations that feels good, so you can share those findings with your partner—you might find new pleasure zones like the backs of your knees, elbows, or feet!
If you’re a man with MS experiencing erectile dysfunction, your doctor might prescribe an oral medication to fix the problem. Women who experience dryness can pick up a water-based lubricant at any drugstore and might also want to experiment with a sex toy.
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- Pat Kennedy, RN, CNP, MSCN, Nurse Educator at Can Do Multiple Sclerosis. Interview.
- Rosalind Kalb, PhD, clinical psychologist, National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Interview.
- Sexual Problems. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Sexual-Dysfunction