Sex Transactional? – Tips for maintaining a healthy relationship whilst trying to conceive

Tips for maintaining a healthy relationship whilst trying to conceive

Rachel and I were trying to conceive for 18 months before we even went to the GP and longer than that by the time we got IVF. At the beggining it was great it was like nothing changed, we were hoping that we would get a happy supprise each month. But as each month ended with aunt flow (means Rachels period – a term commonly used in the trying to conceive and fertility communities) our hopes were dashed once again.

After a number of failed months of trying it started to become a little stale, when we wanted sex and it wasn’t at the right ‘time’ we sometimes just didn’t because there was a goal to having sex now it wan’t just because we loved one another. Or sometimes even more challenging were those 12 hour work days, with 2 hours travelling that have played havoc with your emotions but we knew we ‘had to’ have sex because it was Rachels fertile period.

Those text messages that were always nice which insinuated that when you get home we’re going to have a fun night change to memes such as the one to the right you start wonder why you’re putting yourselves through it and where has all the spontinaity and fun gone. You can start to really assosiate sex with trying for a baby rather love, passion and closeness, overtime we worked on this and managed to get back to a better place, but until you conceive it’s never exaclty like it was before.


Trying for a baby especially for those who are undergoing fertility testing, have been trying for a long time or are waiting for IVF treatment can have quite major and unexpected impacts on your relationship.

When I was talking about us trying for a baby the comments I often heard are ‘lucky you’, ‘sounds great’ and I’d like to think overall it was great and we are lucky. However, there is no denying long term trying to conceive changes the meaning of sex. This is not to say all couples will experience this, but we think it’s important to talk about it.

The emotional Element

Remember when you were young and ultimately sex was a success if you didn’t get or get someone pregnant? Well clearly the focus has changed and with that comes some changes that I know we didn’t really expect at first. When you go through a cycle and the woman’s period starts it feels like a failure and this can translate into strong feelings of inadequacy and guilt which ultimately are then projected onto your sex life, you can feel the need to apologise, to not want to have sex because of the fear of failure and guilt can be intense and can sometimes even lead to anxiety about each other suggesting sex.

The transactional Element

You must have sex every 2-3 days and makes sure that sperm is fresh around the time of ovulation, make sure you know exactly where you are in the cycle, lay down afterwards for a minimum of 3 minutes, make sure there is nothing to cause problems with sperm, make sure you’re eating the right things! These are just a small number of the things you will discuss, read, do and cry about. You’ve had a tough day at work, the cats been ill, you’ve both got colds and to be honest a cuddle and a natter are all that are on your minds. But no, we want a baby we must have sex. This is when sex can become almost transactional in nature, the requirement for him to give his sperm and her to accept it, it can feel a bit like a contract.

The Physical Element

The above amongst stress and other things can have a real impact on the physical side of it. 

Often it can mean that sex is shorter, that you spend less time enjoying each other and exploring it is purely focused upon ensuring sperm and egg have the best chance of meeting. Erectile dysfunction and arousal difficulties can become more common in those trying to conceive.

What this all means?

Overall it means that your sex life will likely be impacted in one way or another. You need to allow yourselves to be open and talk about these things in a safe and judgemental way. It means the longer that you are trying for the more these issues can become problematic and with IVF not being available to many until they have been trying for 2 years and 3 in some cases, it can start impacting areas of your relationship wider than your sex life. It means that you need to be conscious of what is happening and act to ensure that you minimise the pressure and expectations you put on one another and working through the challenges as a team. Below we look at some tips to help you maintain a health sex life and relationship through trying to conceive.

Below is an interesting video that goes into a lot of detail about the impact, I highly reccomend watching it.

Tips for maintaining a health relationship and sex life through trying to conceive

  • Discuss what great sex means to both partners and explore how you achieve that. For some it’s soft, gentle and romantic, for others it might be having a giggle and enjoying the moment. It is important to also keep in mind that good sex doesn’t have to mean penetration, while it’s important when you are trying to conceive, there are times through IVF, fertility investigations and pregnancy where penetrative sex isn’t always ideal.
  • It’s vital to talk to each other. If you are feeling dissatisfied sexually, discuss it with your partner but be sure to approach it from a positive solution angle not a frustrated one as it will likely make them feel inadequate and hurt, you could suggest a change, a product or getting help from a counsellor or therapist.
  • Having sex with the same partner for a long time means, we tend to get into a pattern of sexual behaviour. If you both feel you need to reinvigorate your sex life just choose one small thing to implement into your everyday behaviours that’s different.
  • Celebrate and appreciate all the good things in your relationship. Throughout trying to conceive, fertility testing and IVF there are a lot of additional pressures. So instead of focusing on what’s not going on in the relationship, celebrate what is, and make help change maintain a positive mindset. Which is vital as stress and anxiety can lead to further difficulties with your sex life and can change sexual pleasures.
  • It’s completely normal to struggle with sex while trying to conceive and throughout the infertility process, just continue to work on it as a team and keep the lines of communication open.


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